For centuries elephants have played a very important role in Asian cultures, and were historically taken from the wild and trained for everything from warfare and heavy haulage to ceremonial processions.

We believe the 21st century should herald a renewed sensibility about elephants as representatives of wild nature, now in rapid decline. After centuries of people using elephants for products, in entertainment and service we can strive to ensure that elephants are allowed to live long and safe lives, especially in their rightful place as nature’s engineers. The burgeoning illegal trade of elephant ivory, body parts and smuggling of wild Asian and African elephants in captivity must altogether cease. 

With more than 15,000 still in captivity and an ongoing trade in live elephants in many areas — with many still illegally captured from the wild — conservationists can ill afford to ignore this issue. Improving the welfare conditions of captive elephants is important, and while doing so may have little immediate impact on the conservation of their wild relatives, there are opportunities to link the two, while working to regulate the keeping of elephants in captivity could prevent more being captured from the wild.

Elephant Family currently supports two elephant welfare projects: the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation in Thailand was among the first to realise that buying elephants to rescue them was in fact fuelling the trade in live elephants; and the Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation that is transforming the lives of captive Sumatran elephants that were removed from the wild as an ill-conceived strategy to prevent conflict with people. Their efforts have had a strong influence on elephant conservation in Sumatra and have brought about an end to the practice of capturing wild elephants to prevent conflict.