Over the last three decades, elephant populations in Africa and Asia have suffered precipitous declines due to habitat destruction and illegal wildlife trafficking. AZA facilities are dedicated to caring for these animals in a humane and science-based manner which supports AZA's strong commitment to high standards of animal care and management. Additionally, between 2014 and 2018, over 90 AZA-accredited facilities reported providing nearly $16 million to protect elephants in the wild.
In 2018, AZA and its program, the Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (WTA) partnered with the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) and joined the pledge to conserve elephants by confronting the illegal ivory trade. By joining EPI, AZA and WTA support the calls for immediate and longer-term funding for the implementation of the African Elephant Action Plan. The plan calls for domestic ivory markets to be closed, for all stockpiles to be put beyond economic use, and for a moratorium on any consideration of future international ivory trade for at least 10 years and after that until African elephant populations are no longer threatened.
AZA-accredited zoos also provide significant support to the International Elephant Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and an AZA Conservation Partner, that supports a wide variety of elephant conservation and related scientific and educational projects worldwide. AZA members have supported projects that prevent human-elephant conflict, combat poaching, protect habitat, prevent disease, advance research, and educate people.
AZA has made a strong commitment to Asian elephant conservation by including the species as one of the inaugural 10 focal species and species groups for AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction. In 2018 alone, AZA dedicated $758,000 to Asian elephant projects through AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction. A 2019-2022 plan explains how AZA SAFE is working to protect Asian elephants.
One elephant is killed approximately every twenty-five minutes to fuel the voracious global demand for ivory products. The Wildlife Trafficking Alliance is a program of AZA and is a coalition of nonprofit organizations, companies, foundations and media interests working closely with the U.S. government to combat wildlife trafficking by raising public awareness, reducing consumer demand for wildlife and wildlife products, and mobilizing companies to adopt best practices stop wildlife trafficking through events like Toss the Tusk and other public awareness efforts.
AZA manages nearly 500 cooperative Animal Programs that are responsible for developing, implementing, and supporting extraordinary animal management, science, and conservation, including a Taxon Advisory Group and Species Survival Plan dedicated to elephant management. Zoos have a unique opportunity to advance scientific knowledge of elephants by studying the health, nutrition, welfare, general physiology, behavior, and reproduction of the animals in their care. This knowledge can also be applied to elephant conservation and management in the wild. AZA-accredited zoos also promote elephant conservation by educating people about the threats elephants face in the wild and inspiring them to take action on their behalf.
The AZA Conservation Grants Fund (CGF) supports the cooperative conservation-related scientific and educational initiatives, including those related to elephants, of AZA, its members, and their collaborators. A number of CGF awards specifically address elephant issues and people interested in conducting additional elephant-related work should consider applying to CGF for support. Some of the past elephant-related CGF awards include:
Read more about the AZA community’s commitment to conservation and science.