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 2015 and 2019, more than 90 AZA-accredited facilities reported providing a combined total of over $16.5 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 2019 alone, AZA dedicated over $400,000 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.
Thousands of elephants are killed every year to fuel the global demand of ivory. The Wildlife Trafficking Alliance is a program of AZA and is a coalition of more than 80 nonprofit organizations, companies, foundations, and AZA zoos and aquariums working together to combat wildlife trafficking around the world by: (1) raising public awareness; (2) reducing consumer demand for wildlife and wildlife products; and (3) and mobilizing companies to adopt best practices stop wildlife trafficking.
Elephants in AZA-Accredited Facilities
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.
Conservation Grants Fund Elephant Related Projects
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:
Effects of Socialization on Behavioral, Physiologic and Reproductive Parameters of Bull Asian Elephants (Denver Zoo and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, 2018)
Saving Conflict Elephants in Myanmar -- Using Temporary Electric Fences to Reduce Human-Elephant Conflict (Smithsonian's National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute, 2015
Whole Blood Cytokine Expression for Diagnosis of Tuberculosis in Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus) (University of Illinois and Stellenboch University, 2014)
Managing Human-Elephant Conflict in Burma (Myanmar) (Smithsonian's National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute, 2013)
Average Daily Walking Distance of Captive African Elephants (Loxodonta africana) (Zoological Society of San Diego, 2007)
Developing Rapid Hormone Kits for Monitoring Reproductive Activity in Elephants (Smithsonian's National Zoological Park (CRC), 2006)
Development of Sex Selection Protocols for African and Asian Elephant Sperm (Indianapolis Zoo, 2005)
Sumatran Elephant Healthcare and Conservation Program (Oregon Zoo, 2001)
Development and Validation of Simple and Rapid LH and P4 Field Kits for Prediction of Ovulation in the Elephant (Indianapolis Zoo, Southwest Missouri State University, Six Flags Marine World, 2000)
Read more about the AZA community’s commitment to conservation and science.