AZA News Releases

Association of Zoos and Aquariums Statement on Independent Elephant Welfare Study

Kansas City, MO – Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Executive Director Kristin Vehrs made the following statement regarding the presentation at the AZA Annual Conference of findings by an independent team of scientists on the welfare of zoo elephants:

“AZA-accredited zoos are deeply committed to providing the best care and welfare for elephants. Our members asked for and were eager to participate in this important research.

It is reaffirming to learn that AZA Accreditation Standards for Elephant Management and Care have been scientifically validated to support elephant welfare. For example, the study shows the benefits of natural and soft substrates called for in the AZA Standards, and found that few elephants have foot or joint problems.

Some of these initial findings also show that zoos can make improvements. For example, the results on elephant body condition and reproductive health indicate that some practical changes to diet and exercise would produce welfare benefits.

The next step is to combine the science of elephant welfare with the expertise of elephant care professionals. This study, presented for the first time today, will help zoo professionals continue to provide the best care possible for elephants. AZA members will review the outcomes of this valuable research and begin discussions as a professional community about how this new information to improve elephant care practices."

AZA Standards for Elephant Management and Care can be found within the 2013 AZA Accreditation Standards and Related Policies.

Questions for the independent elephant welfare study research team should be referred to Jill Allread (, 312-848-3768).

Questions regarding AZA should be referred to Steve Feldman (, 202-271-0722).

About AZA

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting an institution dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. AZA members are leaders in global wildlife conservation, and your link to helping animals in their native habitats. For more information, please visit  

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