Commonalities in Management and Husbandry Factors Important for Health and Welfare of Captive Elephants in North America and Thailand
Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, VA 22630, USA
Center of Elephant and Wildlife Research, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Department of Companion Animals and Wildlife Clinics, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Department of Veterinary Bioscience and Veterinary Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 12 March 2020
Revised: 14 April 2020
Accepted: 20 April 2020
Published: 23 April 2020
There is considerable concern about the welfare of elephants used for education, research, and entertainment purposes in western zoos and Asian tourist camps, and whether captive venues meet the needs of these highly social and intelligent animals. Therefore, it is important to conduct studies to determine how factors in the captive environment affect animal welfare both positively and negatively. The use of multi-disciplinary approaches to assess welfare has aided improvements in the management of captive elephants in North American zoos and Thailand tourist camps. In this paper, we review the most recent findings of our elephant studies that, using similar methodologies, highlight the importance of proper diets, adequate exercise, natural and stimulating environments, and freedom of movement to welfare. Overall, we found a number of commonalities in how environmental factors affect biological function of elephants managed under vastly different conditions. This type of integrative information is important for establishing welfare guidelines to ensure healthy, sustainable global populations of captive elephants.