Elephant Captivity in Zoos and Safari Parks to be Banned Amid Mental Health Concerns

According to a Daily Mail report, a ban on keeping elephants in zoos and safari parks is set to be introduced due to concerns about their mental well-being in captivity.

The new legislation will prevent the import of additional elephants, allowing the existing population to decrease as the animals pass away naturally gradually.

Environment Minister Zac Goldsmith’s decision is expected to be welcomed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s wife, Carrie, an advocate for elephant welfare. Activists have long claimed that these brilliant animals experience mental illness in captivity.

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The legislation will prohibit the importation of any new elephants, and the existing population will be allowed to die out naturally. Source: Daily Mail

Moreover, elephants often face health issues such as arthritis in zoos and have a significantly shorter lifespan—17 years on average—compared to over 50 years in the wild.

The upcoming legislation will end a tradition of keeping elephants in captivity in Britain that dates back to 1255. A government report on the welfare of captive elephants is expected to support the argument against saving them in zoos.

As part of broader zoo reforms under the Kept Animals Bill, the use of animals exclusively for entertainment purposes will be phased out. Mark Jones of the charity Born Free commented that elephants, wide-ranging and socially complex animals, do not belong in zoos.


The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation has been actively campaigning for an end to keeping elephants in captivity. Lorraine Platt, chairman of the foundation, stressed the importance of allowing elephants to roam freely in large spaces and maintain their close-knit family groups.

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The move by environment minister Zac Goldsmith (right) is likely to delight Boris Johnson’s wife, Carrie (left, campaigning together in 2017), who is a champion of elephant welfare. Source: Daily Mail

Public concern about the treatment of captive elephants intensified in 2011 when footage emerged of Anne, the last circus elephant in Britain, shackled in a barn. Daily Mail readers subsequently raised £410,000 to fund Anne’s retirement in a state-of-the-art enclosure at Longleat.

Currently, 51 elephants reside in 11 zoos across the UK, with circus elephants having been banned since January 2020. In the wild, elephants live in large herds and have intricate social lives, often migrating hundreds of miles annually.


Carrie Johnson, the Prime Minister’s wife, serves as the head of communications for the Aspinall Foundation, an organization that works in partnership with two conservation zoos.

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