Elephants are nomadic; in nature they are constantly on the move over ranges including hundreds of square kilometres, and it is therefore impossible for a zoo to provide an adequate amount of space for the elephants to exercise[1]. Elephants are highly social[2], intelligent, cognitive[3] animals and no zoo can provide the adequate social environment they require. Keeping two elephants together, a male and a female, does not come close to providing adequate social grouping. 

There is no evidence that zoos contribute to the conservation of the species, and abundant evidence that captive elephants experience a range of health problems[4] in captivity and they die at a much younger age than wild elephants[5].  

There is a high risk of mortality during and after relocation of elephants. The capture poses long term high stress on both the elephants captured and the remaining family members. Furthermore, the members of PREN are concerned that there appears to be a lack of specific elephant expertise, including elephant specialist veterinarians, trained elephant handlers and individuals qualified in elephant husbandry, at the Peshawar zoo. 

PREN members are concerned about the small size of the proposed elephant enclosure at the Peshawar zoo, the listed vegetation being alien to the African elephant, the absence of a mud wallow, the suggestion that the water pool will be removed, and the proposed enclosure of the elephants in a building that requires air conditioning as a form of temperature control. There is a dangerous moat surrounding the enclosure, which poses the ever-present risk of falling and injury. 


A recent judgement by the Honourable High Court of Islamabad [2021 PLD Islamabad 6] highlighted Pakistan’s commitment to the defence of elephants kept in the confinement at zoos. Kaavan, a solitary male elephant was removed from the Islamabad zoo and was retired to a sanctuary in Cambodia, where he is in the process of being rehabilitated and rewilded. His mental and physical health is reported to have improved greatly since his relocation. 

Pakistan landmark legal decision in support of freeing elephants in captivity was celebrated around the world.  The event attracted significant global media attention[6]. Kaavan is living proof that confining an elephant in a zoo is unnatural and that this confinement makes elephants ill.  In 2021 we should all be aware that wild animals – especially elephants – should not be used for human entertainment.  

[1] Ngene S.,Okello M.M., Mukeka J. Muya S., Njumbi S. & Isiche J. 2017. Home range sizes and space use of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in the Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania borderland landscape. International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation, 9(1):9-26.

[2] Wittemyer G., Douglas-Hamilton I. & Getz W.M. 2005. The socioecology of elephants: analysis of processes creating multitiered social structures. Animal Behaviour, 69(6):1357-1371

[3] Byrne RW & Bates LA. 2009. Elephant cognition in primate perspective. Cognition & Behavior Reviews, 4:1-15.

[4] Miller M.A., Hogan J.N., Meehan C.L. 2016. Housing and demographic risk factors impacting foot and muscoskeletal health in African elephants (Loxodonta africana) and Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). PLoS ONE, 11(7):e0155223.

[5] Clubb R., Rowcliffe M., Lee P., Mar K.U., Moss C. & Mason G.J. 2008. Compromised survivorship in zoo elephants. Science, 322:1649. 

[6] ;

The authorities in Pakistan are urged to re-affirm their decision to oppose this import, and Peshawar Zoo should extend the example of Islamabad, by confirming that no elephants should be exported from the wild to a life in close captivity.

The undersigned members and specialists of PREN agree that the government of Pakistan is correct not to complete the NOC documentation.  


Yours Sincerely, 

  Stefania Falcon Pro Elephant Network Co-ordinator

The following members of the Pro Elephant Network have signed in support of this statement:

Owais Awan, Advocate High Court, Islamabad

Suparna Baksi-Ganguly, President and Co-Founder, Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Center, Bangalore, India

Dr Brett Bard, Veterinarian, South Africa 

Dr Jessica Bell Rizzolo, Postdoctoral Researcher, the Conservation Criminology Lab, Dep of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University

Professor David Bilchitz, Director, South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public and Human Rights and International Law, South Africa 

Dr Gay Bradshaw, Director, Kerulos Center for Nonviolence – USA

Megan Carr, Founder, Rhinos in Africa  

Lenin Chisaira,  Founder, Advocates 4 Earth – Green Law Connect, Zimbabwe

Dr Betsy Coville,  Wildlife Veterinarian – USA

Nomusa Dube,Founder, Zimbabwe Elephant Foundation

Stefania Falcon,  Co-Founder, Future 4 Wildlife, South Africa  

Michele Franko, Senior Research Associate – Elephant Care & Wellbeing at the Kerulos Center for Nonviolence, USA

Chief Stephen Fritz, Chief, South Peninsula Khoi Council – South Africa 

Dr Marion Garai, Zoologist – Captive Elephant Social Behaviourist 

Dr Keith Lindsay, Conservation Biologist, Natural Resources Consultant 

Rachel Harris, Managing Director, Elephant Human Relationship Aid, Namibia

Dr Ross Harvey, Environmental Economist, Botswana   

Alok Hissarwala Gupta, Elephant Specialist, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations

Iris Ho, Senior Wildlife Specialist, The Humane Society International 

Peter Hodgskin, Founder, Hands-off Fernkloof, South Africa  

Dr Paula Kahumbu, WildlifeDirect, Kenya  

Professor Mohan Kharel, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal

Dr Mark Jones, Veterinarian, Born Free Foundation – UK

Nuria Maldonado, Ecologist, Environmental Science, Max Plank Institute

Jim Karani, Advocate, Lawyers for Animal Protection in Africa

Dr Winnie Kiiru, Founder, Conservation Kenya

Kahindi Lekalhaile,  Africa Network for Animal Welfare, Kenya 

Dr Smaragda Louw, Director, Ban Animal Trading, South Africa 

Giorgio Lombardi, Warden Vogelgat Private Nature Reserve, South Africa 

Linda Masudze, Advocate 4 Earth, Zimbabwe 

Varda Mehrotra, Executive Director, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations 

Brett Mitchell, Director, Elephant Reintegration Trust, South Africa 

Mary Morrison, Advocate, WildlifeDirect, Kenya

Sharon Pincott, Elephant Behavioural Specialist, ex-Hwange, Zimbabwe  

Michele Pickover,  Director, EMS Foundation, South Africa

Dr Yolanda Pretorius, SA Wildlife College, Elephant Behavioural Specialist, South Africa  

Ingo Schmidinger, Elephant Husbandry – iScapes 

Dr Jan Schmidt-Burbach, Veterinarian, Head of Wildlife Research and Animal Welfare, World Animal Protection International

Dr DJ Schubert, Wildlife Biologist, Animal Welfare Institute – USA 

Antoinette Van de Water, Director, Bring the Elephant Home, South Africa  

Prof Dan Wylie, Rhodes University, South Africa 

IMAGE CREDIT: Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

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