The Pro Elephant Network (PREN) consists of an international community of diverse individuals and organizations, comprising specific expertise, on wild and captive African and Asian Elephants, including the fields of science, health, conservation, welfare, economics, community leadership, social justice and the law.  

The Members of PREN are concerned about the numerous reported deaths of captive Elephants in Kerala. 

Since December 2018, 77 Elephants have died, and at least six since the beginning of this year. The cruel treatment of some of Kerala’s Elephants has been exposed internationally on numerous social media channels. 

Credit: Instagram Kerala Elephant Cruelty @elephantcruelty 

Damning Documentaries have exposed the cruelty shown towards Elephants in religious institutions including the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Guruvayur Temple which is called the “Guruvayur Captive Elephant Sanctuary ” and  “Punathoor Kotta”,  where 45 Elephants, mostly bulls, are permanently kept chained in their own urine and excrements. In an interview with award winning filmmaker Sangita Iyer, renown Spiritual Leader Swami Bhoomananda Theertha describes how Elephants’ feet are set on fire to bring them under control, how handlers throw stones at bulls’ genitals and how these herbivores are purposefully and maliciously fed meat. 

Reports in the media confirmed, that a submission on 6th April 2022, by Honourable Member of Parliament Suresh Gopi requested that the Central Government consider according “Domesticated Animal” Status to Elephants who are held in captivity. The undersigned Members of PREN acknowledge and appreciate the Government’s current policy is that Elephants are intrinsically wild and that there should be not alteration made to this categorisation or associated terminology when referring to Elephants.

Numerous studies[1] and reports indicate that the domestication of wild animals by humans is a socio-biological process which takes thousands of years and involves changes in genealogy. Throughout the 3,000-year history of Human–Elephant relationships, most Elephants utilised by humans have been captured from the wild. Almost all captive Elephants in India are wild caught because Indian Elephants do not breed easily in captivity. 

Elephants used for temple and other religious processions in Kerala, even though they are legally identified as “captive” animals, are indeed biologically wild. Wild Elephants remain victims of the unacceptable practice of violent and traumatic training in their early years, to ensure these majestic animals are subjugated under the control of the Mahout through the medium of fear. The fear is induced through pain, food deprivation and by causing deep psychological damage.[2]

The hidden reality of Elephants in captivity is contrary to the protection guaranteed by Indian law which protects Elephants as a National Heritage Animal, elevated to Schedule-I status under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. This protection applies to all Elephants, wild and those held captive. 

Many Elephants in Kerala are kept permanently chained in the backyards of owners and temples, forced to stand on hard concrete or granite floors, most often with no roof to protect them from the weather. They are deprived of adequate food, water, and any positive physical or mental stimulus.[3] In addition, Elephants are forced to stand on their own urine and excrement and in unhygienic conditions, leading to foot rot and deadly diseases such as tuberculosis. Research indicates that frequent, close contact within confined spaces leads to a two-way transmission between Elephants and humans and a high seroprevalence in these animals and their handlers.

Given the complex brain of Elephants,[4] advanced cognitive abilities, suite of emotional responses and physical expressiveness in a socially embedded life-style, it should not come as a surprise that the denial of natural conditions would lead to physical and psychological trauma and abnormal behaviour, including aggression.[5] In addition, recent research suggests that the impoverished environment provided for these animals has detrimental effects on the brain itself.[6]  

Stereotypy, the invariant restrictive and apparently purposeless repetition of motor patterns,[7] is commonly seen in captive Elephants held in impoverished conditions. Exposure to psychological stress, has direct physiological consequences that impact the body’s ability to function.[8] This includes neural disfunctions, brain damage[9] and premature death.[10]

There is overwhelming scientific evidence that Elephants thrive in tight-knit herds and cultures of their own.[11] In the wild, they create tools, use their massive bodies and physical organs constantly to gather food, graze, socialize[12] and mate.[13]

Elephants have evolved to move across vast areas, in order to meet their nutritional needs;[14]  they consume between 200-250 variety of barks, berries, fruits, leaves, roots, herbs, shrubs, grass and even extract minerals from soil. All of these activities keep them physically, mentally and emotionally engaged. It is known that these highly empathetic animals[15], once torn from their families andsubjected to violence and confinement suffer from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).[16]

   Arjunan collapsed and died – Photo Credit: Venkitachalam

On April 20, 2022, the Forest and Wildlife Department has again opened the registrar to include new Elephants to be used for parades, Annexure I. This seems to be in contempt of India’s Supreme Court Order dated 18 August 2015, which had finalised the 30thSeptember 2015 as the last deadline for registrations. This further extension questions the validity of the law and exposes the continued trade and transport of Elephants from the wild into captivity in Kerala

While the Central Government has clearly specified in the latest Amendment Bill of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 that “[..] any transfer or transport of an existing captive Elephant for a religious institution may be conducted by a person having a valid certificate of ownership, according to the Elephant data submitted by the forest department before the Supreme Court in 2018, there were 521 captive Elephants in the state. To date that number is 444 Elephants, of which only 19 Elephants have proper documents of ownershipand another 13 Elephants are in the custody of the forest department. 

The Elephants used in these parades are often transported in precarious and unregulated conditions. In March 2022,  an incident involving a truck carrying a bull Elephant crashed into another truck. We are not aware of any investigation following the incident. 

An Elephant standing behind a damaged truck after collision – Photo credit: VK Venkitachalam

Elephants are paraded during excessive heatwaves and can collapse.  They are deprived of food, water, and adequate shelter. They are provoked or beaten with illegal weapons to bring them under control, such as spiked chains and capture belts, utilised to inflict maximum pain and suffering.  

PREN Members have supported the submission from the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (WRRC).  


27th April 2022



The Members of the Pro Elephant Network wish to publicly confirm that on Friday 21st April 2022 they received a formal invitation from Barbara Creecy, the Minister for Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment to assemble a team of Elephant experts to assess the mental and physical health and well-being of Charlie the Elephant living at the Pretoria Zoo in South Africa.

Minister Creecy has, furthermore, given the assurance that she has provided the Chairperson of the South African Biodiversity Institute the authority to provide access to Charlie.

The Members of PREN wish to publicly express their gratitude to Minister Creecy for supporting their initiative to provide Charlie the opportunity of the best available expertise.

Arrangements are currently underway to assemble a team with the appropriate competencies to carry out this complex evaluation.

Stefania Falcon
PREN Coordinator 

Image Credit: EMS Foundation November 2021

©The Pro Elephant Network 2022. All Rights Reserved.


13th April 2022

The Co-ordinator of PREN has, today, addressed an open letter to the Honourable Minister, Barbara Creecy of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, the letter was also addressed to the Chief Executive Officer of the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the letter was addressed to the Executive Director of the National Zoological Gardens.



The Pro Elephant Network (PREN) as an international community of diverse individuals and organizations, comprising specific expertise, on wild and captive African and Asian elephants, including the fields of science, health, conservation, welfare, economics, community leadership, social justice and the law, has been respectively engaging with the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment and meeting with SANBI, since December 2020. 

On the 16th December 2020 members of PREN alerted the Honourable Minister to their concerns regarding the mental and physical well-being and welfare of Charlie, the bull elephant at the Pretoria Zoo. 

PREN members have subsequently repeatedly requested that Charlie undergo an assessment by independent, renown elephant experts and, if the results of the assessments are in favour, that he be allowed to follow a rehabilitation program for reintegration in a more suitable natural environment, in collaboration with the Zoo and the EMS Foundation, a Member of PREN. 

We are aware of the arduous and fruitless engagement process that took place between the EMS Foundation and SANBI representatives during 2021.  

PREN fully endorses the actions of the EMS Foundation which includes the public statement of the 7th of April  2022. 

PREN hereby formally requests once again that the South African Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment and SANBI, grant access to Charlie in order for an urgent, independent veterinary and behavioural assessment to be carried out.  

We remain concerned for Charlie’s physical and mental well-being.  

The following Pro Elephant Network Members signed in support of this open letter:

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

Janey Clegg                              Committee Member, SPCA Mutare, Zimbabwe

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

Megan Carr                               Founder, Rhinos in Africa  

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

Dr Betsy Coville                          Exotic / Wildlife Animal Veterinarian 

Dr Harvey Croze                        DPhil (Oxon) Collaborating Researcher – Amboseli Trust for Elephants – Kenya 

Nomusa Dube                           Founder, Zimbabwe Elephant Foundation

David Ebert                               Advocate, Founder Director of The Animal Defense Partnership – USA

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

Daniela Freyer                           Co-Founder, Pro Wildlife, Germany

Michele Franko                          Captive Elephant Caregiver and Advocate – USA

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

Dr Toni Frohoff                          Ethologist and Behavioral Biologist, Founder of TerraMar Research  

Dr Marion E. Garai                     Elephant Behaviour Specialist – South Africa 

Dr Ross Harvey                         Environmental Economist, Botswana   

Heike Henderson-Altenstein       Director, Future for Elephants e.V. 

Alok Hisarwala Gupta                 Lawyer, Animal Law – India 

Iris Ho                                       Head of Policy – Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA)

Peter Hodgskin                          Founder, Hands-off Fernkloof, South Africa 

Sangita Iyer                               B.Sc., M.A., Founder of Voice for Asian Elephants Society, Nat Geo Explorer and  Wildlife Filmmaker

Lynne James                             Independent, Elephant Conservation,  Zimbabwe

Dr Mark Jones                           Veterinarian, Born Free Foundation – UK

David Kabambo                         Founder Director of Peace for Conservation – Wildlife Management – Tanzania

Dr Paula Kahumbu                    WildlifeDirect, Kenya  

Professor Mohan Kharel             Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal

Nuria Maldonado                       Ecologist, Environmental Science, Max Plank Institute

Jim Karani                                 Advocate, Lawyers for Animal Protection in Africa – Kenya 

Dr Winnie Kiiru                          Founder, Conservation Kenya

Brigitte Kornetzky                      President and Founder of Elefanten in Not  – Switzerland / India 

Professor Bob Jacobs                Neuroscience Researcher – Colorado College – USA

Kahindi Lekalhaile                      Africa Network for Animal Welfare, Kenya 

Dr Smaragda Louw                    Director, Ban Animal Trading, South Africa 

Dr Keith Lindsay                        Conservation Biologist, Amboseli Trust for Elephants – Kenya; Fondation Franz Weber

Giorgio Lombardi                       Warden Vogelgat Private Nature Reserve, South Africa 

Linda Masudze                          Advocate 4 Earth, Zimbabwe 

Varda Mehrotra                         Environmentalist, Climate Crisis Researcher – India  

Dr Nurzhafarina Binti Othman     Founder: Seratu Aatai, Elephant Conservation and Research Coordinator at HUTAN-KOCP  – Malaysia 

Sharon Pincott                           Elephant Behavioural Specialist, ex-Hwange, Zimbabwe  

Bharati Ramachandran              CEO of the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations – India

Ian Redmond OBE                     Founder, African Ele-Fund and Elefriends Campaign, Chairman of Ape Alliance and Co-founder of Rebalance Earth  

Ingo Schmidinger                       Elephant Husbandry – Co-Founder 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 

Dr Liz Tyson                              Animal Welfare Law, Programs Director  – Born Free USA 

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

Vasanthi Vadi                            Trustee of the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations – India 

Prof Dan Wylie                          Rhodes University, South Africa 

Image Credit: EMS Foundation November 2021

©The Pro Elephant Network 2022. All Rights Reserved.

The African Elephant Coalition Information Document

At CoP14 in 2007 a coalition of West, Central and East African countries joined forces to support a combined Kenya and Mali proposal for a twenty-year moratorium on the ivory trade.  

In February 2008 nineteen national representatives met in Mali to plan for the implementation of CoP14 Elephant decisions.  The Parties present agreed to the Bamako Declaration to formalise the African Elephant Coalition which so declared:

The coalition will strive to have a viable and healthy elephant population free of threats from the international ivory trade.  Parties to the coalition will also develop an elephant action plan that will encompass national and regional elephant strategies that promote non consumptive use of elephants through development of ecotourism for the benefit of local communities. 

Members include: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Cote d’ Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrae, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Liberia, Southern Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda and Mauiatania is a member as non-range state. 

The composition of the African Elephant Coalition includes high-level government officials from national wildlife management authorities and technical and scientific representatives from civil society, with small secretariats in each member state.  The Coalition is therefore a powerful lobbying voice at CITES Conference of the Parties CoP meetings. 

The African Elephant Coalition has always expressed its deep concern about the crisis facing elephants and its conviction that a ban on international and domestic trade in ivory is the best way to protect elephants.



The Director of the San Juan De Aragon Zoo, The Secretary of the Environmental Department Jefa de Gobierno

22nd February 2022

The Pro Elephant Network (PREN)1 consists of an international community of diverse individuals and organizations, comprising specific expertise from both western and eastern academies on wild and captive elephants, including the fields of science, health, conservation, elephant welfare, economics, community leadership, social justice and the law.

Members of PREN have contributed in recent years to extensive research and to the recognition of who elephants are and of their individual needs2. There is growing evidence that, of all animals, elephants are among those who suffer the most in captivity3. In fact, results have shown that despite consistent efforts in providing enrichment at the zoo, the needs of elephants are still compromised4. Not only are captive elephants likely to acquire physical ailments that invariably shorten their lifespan5, they are also prone to developing psychological issues that can render depression6, stereotypy7 and self-harm8.

PREN Members have been made aware of the conditions and behaviour of Ely, the forty-one year old African Elephant, currently living in the San Juan de Aragon Zoo and are offering to assist by proposing alternatives and practical solutions for the improvement of her life and a sustainable way forward.

All elephants live highly complex social and emotional lives and need physical contact and bonding with other con- specifics and suffer tremendously when forced in solitude9.
In addition, they crave space and movement10. They evolved to cover long distances while feeding on a rich variety of vegetation across different ecosystems. In the wild they walk an average of 10 kilometres, and sometimes as many as 50km, every day, with home ranges covering hundreds of square kilometres11. When elephants’ movements are restricted in a captive environment, they develop potentially fatal conditions of their bones, joints and cardiovascular systems12. Elephants’ vital endeavours include mud wallowing, bathing, interacting with their companions through touch, vocalisation and olfaction and countless other social behaviours13. Given their complex brain, suite of emotional responses and physical expressiveness in a socially embedded life-style, it should not come as a surprise that the denial of any of these conditions through their captivity in undersized enclosures with inappropriate hard substrates and lack of enrichment, results in physical and psychological trauma and abnormal behaviour14.

Stereotypy, that invariant restrictive and apparently purposeless repetition of motor patterns, is commonly seen in captive elephants and indeed many captive animals held in impoverished environments. Exposure to psychological stress, which may be caused by close confinement and solitary living, has direct physiological consequences that impact the body’s ability to function15.

For these reasons, a total of 70 elephant exhibits have been closed or converted globally16. Zoos around the world (in Argentina17, Chile18, Alaska19, Pakistan20, etc.) have in recent times recognised that, despite their best efforts, they have been unable to meet the needs of their elephants; they have decided to prioritise the welfare needs of elephants and have agreed to translocate them to more suitable environments where the elephant can enjoy more physical and psychological comfort.

At the same time, an increasing number of institutions across the world are the subject of legal challenges over their keeping of elephants21.

PREN elephant experts urge that in order to prevent Ely’s unnecessary premature death, an urgent medical assessment and intervention is required. Members of the Pro Elephant Network are willing to offer their expertise. The implementation of high-priority measures is needed to alleviate Ely’s obvious suffering.

Members of the Pro Elephant Network and other wildlife organizations have participated in the successful relocation and reintegration of elephants, particularly solitary ones, into natural environments22 and to global sanctuaries. Elephant sanctuaries have sprung up around the world from Tennessee23 to Brazil24 to Cambodia25 and California26.

The release of Kaavan from the Islamabad zoo to a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia made global news27 and the international publicity positively highlighted the administrators of the zoo in question.

PREN members know that the Mexico government would receive international recognition if the zoo administrators were to engage with our elephant specialists in order to find the best solution for Ely and to commit to ending the captivity of elephants at the San Juan de Aragon zoo.

It also came to the attention of our Members that the Head of Government would positively accept Ely to be evaluated by external national and international experts. PREN members hereby extend our collaborative offer to the administrators of the San Juan de Aragon Zoo, we remain available for further engagement and support.


On Friday 18th February 2022, Members of the Pro Elephant Network sent an urgent communication to the following recipients:

The Acting Director of Biodiversity Department of CITES United Arab Emirates, the Minister of Climate Change and the Environment United Arab Emirates, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism Namibia, the Namibian CITES Authority, the Secretary General of CITES, the Legal Officer of the CITES Secretariat, the Chief of the Scientific Unit CITES, the Chair of the CITES Standing Committee, Chair of the CITES Animals Committee, EAZA Director for Conservation and Population Management, EAZA Deputy Executive Director, EAZA African elephant Coordinator, EAZA Elephant TAG Chair, EAZA Assistant Coordinator, the IUCN Elephant Specialist Group, Co-Chair of the African Elephant Coalition and the Kenya Wildlife Service




In October 2021, 22 wild elephants were captured and transported to a holding facility in Gobabis, the regional capital of the Omaheke Region of eastern Namibia. The holding facility is located on the premises of a trophy hunting safari business called GoHunt Namibia Safaris, the business is owned by Mr Gerrie Odendaal.

The wild elephants are being held captive in preparation for export to zoos in the United Arab Emirates, possibly to the Al Ain Zoo, member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and the Sharjah Desert Park. According to reports this deal was organised by a South African wildlife trader/broker and a large amount of money has already changed hands in this clearly commercial transaction. Additional information, received by some of the PREN Members, claims that several charter companies have allegedly refused to ship the elephants to their destination.

A legal opinion was obtained by the EMS Foundation, a member of the Pro Elephant Network, in 2021. The legal opinion stated that it would not be lawful for the Namibian CITES Management Authority to issue an export permit under either Appendix I or Appendix II of CITES, nor for a country outside of the range states for Loxodonta Africana to issue an import permit, particularly because Appendix II does not apply to the export and the available evidence indicates that exporting the Namibian wild-caught elephants elephants to an ex-situ programme cannot meet the requirements of Article III for trade in Appendix I species, particularly the non-detriment criterion.

The removal of wild African elephants for captive use is not supported by the African elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN/SSN AfESG). In an official statement they clarified, “Believing there to be no direct benefit for in-situ conservation of African elephants, the African elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission does not endorse the removal of African elephants from the wild for any captive use.”

In addition, the Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism confirmed in public statement issued on the 15th of February 2022, that the elephants were captured in the Kunene region of Namibia. For the record, we are relying upon our sources who have always indicated that the captured elephants are from threatened desert adapted populations.

In a letter, dated 31st of January 2022, to PREN from the EAZA Executive Office, the EAZA Ex-situ Programme for African elephant (EEP), they stated that the EAZA Ex-situ Programme (EEP) for African elephants has no intention, nor need, to import African elephants from the wild. They also stated that EAZA “is not principally against legal and sustainable importation of animals from the wild to accredited zoos in exceptional circumstances, and when in support of population management and species conservation needs. The EAZA Elephant Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) and the two EEPs have taken the position that such circumstances do not apply at present and thus do not support the importation of elephants from the wild into the EAZA population. EAZA Members are bound to abide by this position of the EEP and TAG.”

Since December 2020 the Members of PREN have attempted to engage with the Namibian authorities regarding the capture and sale of wild elephants in Namibia. More specifically PREN members requested information on the Non-Detriment Finding and data on the population and conditions of the capture. Unfortunately, all communications from PREN, including those sent in August, September and October 2021 were ignored and no action was taken to stop the capture of wild elephants in Namibia.

Access to information and the right to know is the fundamental cornerstone of democracy, transparency and accountability. This is squarely a matter of public interest.

On the 12th February 2022, Namibian investigative journalist John Grobler, was apparently arrested for allegedly flying a drone over the aforementioned far, his request for access having been denied. Grobler was apparently charged with trespassing on private property under Ordinance 3 of 1962. The 1962 ordinance clearly refers to a person physically trespassing and could not possibly refer to the use of modern drone. The Pro Elephant Network joins protests from many national and international institutions which firmly condemned the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) for this action and AMPOL for the charges with with no evidence and the confiscation of the journalist’s material.


The submission was made to the Honourable Members and the Secretariat of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology Environment, Forests and Climate Change in New Delhi, in India by Suparna Ganguly, Honorary President and Co Founder and Trustee of the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Bangalore in India on the 27th of January 2021.

Members of PREN wrote a supporting submission on the 12th of February 2022.

The submissions were made with regard to the Proposed Wildlife Protection Amendment Bill 159 of 2021.


PREN Members stated their concerns with regard to section 43 of the Wildlife Protection Act specifically in relation to clause 27. Furthermore it was suggested and recommended that the Committee review the overwhelming science which discourages the ownership and trade in elephants in favour of protecting Elephants in India.




On the 8th of January 2021 the members of the Pro Elephant Network requested urgent medical veterinary assistance for four African elephants originally from Tanzania now resident at the Karachi Safari Park and Zoo, in Karachi in Pakistan. 

This appeal was delivered after the PREN experts viewed videos and photographs of the elephants.  In light of the content of the video PREN members offered expertise and critical veterinary and husbandry support. Two of the PREN experts Dr Marion Garai and Dr Brett Bard submitted detailed reports. 

This inaction resulted in a petition being filed to the Hon’ble Sindh High Court in Karachi.  PREN member and Advocate, Owais Awan who acted for Kaavan the elephant and secured a historic decision, to have him freed from his confinement at Islamabad zoo in 2020, filed the petition along with co-petitioner Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).

The following demands were included in the petition: 

  1. Actions of the city government must be termed illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional and against the injunctions of Islam.
  2. All four elephants must be immediately examined.
  3. Directions must be issued to ensure international standards of animal care for them.
  4. A committee must also be formed to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the Karachi zoo.

The Divisional Bench of the Hon’ble Sindh High Court ruled that internationally recognised, elephant medical experts be granted access to the elephants.  A team of veterinarians led by Dr Amir Khalil, who played a major role in transferring Kaavan, from the Islamabad Zoo to the Cambodia Sanctuary in 2020, was invited by the High Court to attend to the emergency medical examination of the four African elephants. 

In November 2021 Dr Frank Goeritz, Dr Amir Khalil, Professor Thomas Hilburnell and Dr Marina Invanova arrived in Karachi in Pakistan from Europe.  Their visit was organised by the global animal welfare group Four Paws with PREN member and Advocate Owais Awan as their consultant.

During the initial examinations of the four elephants it was determined that one of the elephants required a complicated surgery to remove a damaged and infected tusk and it was determined that a second elephant has dental problems and a medical issue with its foot. Such diseases are extremely painful and can lead to life-threatening situations in elephants according to the experts preliminary report. 

The experts confirmed that one of the elephants had been incorrectly sexed for over ten years.  

The experts also recommended that all four elephants be united, that they received a proper diet and that the staff caring for the elephants required proper training. 

All four elephants were diagnosed as being obese. Blood and urine samples were taken from the elephants and a myriad of tests were conducted.  A full report will be submitted to the court. The experts also noted that there are no swimming facilities in the elephant enclosure, that the enclosure is also situated in a position that offers no relief from constant traffic noise pollution. 

Details of the Four Paws International visit to the elephants, has sparked worldwide attention and has been widely published in the international media. 

The Members of the Pro Elephant Network are extremely grateful to Owais Awan for his continued efforts to support the welfare of elephants and to the court for this thoughtful decision which protects the best interests of the elephants.  

PREN would like to acknowledge the dedication of this expert team, who despite the current COVID_19 associated risks travelled to a different continent in order to offer their medical expertise to relieve the pain and suffering of these four elephants. 

The members hereby acknowledge the commitment for the Four Paws organisation whose vision is a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. 

Image(s) Credit: Four Paws International

© Copyright Pro Elephant Network 2021. All rights reserved.




The Members of the Pro Elephant Network hereby offer our warm congratulations on your victory and our best wishes for your success as you prepare to take up the responsibilities and challenges of your high office. 

The Pro Elephant Network (PREN) is an international community of diverse individuals and organizations, comprising specific expertise, from both western and eastern academies, on wild and captive elephants, including the fields of science, health, conservation, elephant welfare, economics, community leadership, social justice and the law[1].We understand that, prior to your election, the previous administration committed to a ‘State to State transfer’ of two elephants to Qatar.  The members of PREN together with wildlife conservationists from around the world, were alarmed to hear that the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) had captured two wild elephant calves, a male and a female, from South Luangwa National Park. These elephants were then held captive at Lusaka National Park in preparation for export. The health of the female elephant calf rapidly deteriorated and she tragically died when being sedated for transport. The male elephant calf was then exported to the Doha Zoo, which is currently closed, while a new facility is being constructed.

It is of grave to concern to the members of PREN, in light of the recent tragedy, that the Zambian government is planning to attempt to capture another wild elephant calf to replace the female that died and export her to Qatar. According to press reports, the Zambian Environment minister announced that “the Zambian Government is ready to honour the bilateral obligation”[1].  

Given their complex cognitive abilities, intelligence,[2] empathy[3] and sentience[4], elephants have a suite of emotional responses and physical behaviours. They are highly social animals who naturally live in tight-knit herds forming strong family bonds that can last a lifetime. They are wide-ranging and require access to large, complex, stimulating ecological and social environments, and the freedom to exercise choice over their foraging options and companions. 

When deprived of these basic social and emotional needs, as in captive environments, they inevitably suffer from psychological trauma and physical deterioration[5], including the deterioration of the brain[6]. Not only are captive elephants likely to acquire physical ailments that invariably shorten their lifespan[7], they are also prone to developing psychological issues. 

Most importantly, young growing elephants crucially depend on their mothers and other family members for appropriate socialisation and learning, and to acquire important social skills and competence, and copying mechanisms for life. Taking them away from their mothers is depriving them of everything they must learn to function as a normal elephant. Male calves only leave their natal families at 12 to 15 years old while females remain together for life. Disruption of this bond through the removal of young elephants from their family groups is physically and psychologically traumatic for both the calves and remaining families and groups, with often devastating life-long lasting negative effects.

The well-documented symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)[8] displayed as behaviour such as stereotypic weaving movements are caused by chronic depression and stress that elephants suffer in zoos and in captivity. This can be caused by capture operations, by being ripped apart from their families and then transported long-distances to ex situ locations and to totally unfamiliar surroundings. There is growing international recognition that the capture and export of wild elephants to captive destinations is inhumane and does not contribute to conservation. These concerns have been raised also in a document that African countries submitted to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Animals Committee[9]In addition to concerns on the impact of the capture on the affected individuals and their herds, there are also concerns on the legality of this transaction:  Zambia’s elephants are listed on Appendix I of CITES which generally prohibits their exportation. CITES only allows for exemptions under very narrow circumstances and when the ex- and importing country has issued permits after ensuring that:

  • the animals are used for primarily non-commercial purposes
  • live animals are so prepared and shipped as to minimize the risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment
  • when the offtake is not detrimental to the species and 
  • when the recipient facility is suitably equipped to house and care for the specimen. 

It is, therefore,  questionable whether these conditions have been adequately fulfilled and appropriate permits have been issued.  Given the circumstances described above, including the death of one elephant during preparations for export and the fact that the intended recipient facility has not even been finalized, we must formally interject.   Furthermore, Qatar has at best only basic animal welfare regulations, we are not inspired with confidence that any elephants exported to Qatar will receive the best possible care.

Mr President, we respectfully request that you reject the previous administration’s decision to donate these elephants to Qatar, as it does not reflect the values of your new progressive Government  and could harm Zambia’s reputation as a nation which values its natural heritage. We urge you to intervene and ban the capture of wild elephants for export from Zambia to ex situ locations. 

Every remaining wild elephant in Zambia is an important part of Zambia’s natural heritage, and should be treasured as such. Adopting such a mindset and attitude, and recognizing the crucial role that elephants play in the forest ecosystems is vital for the survival of the species, which has been listed as Endangered by the IUCN.

We stand ready to provide further input and evidence, based on the experience and expertise of our members.



29th October 2021


The Pro Elephant Network (PREN) consists of an international community of diverse individuals and organizations, comprising specific expertise, on wild and captive African and Asian elephants, including the fields of science, health, conservation, welfare, economics, community leadership, social justice and the law.[1]

We appreciate the recent public statements from the management of the National Zoological Park. These include the focus towards empathy and care for the animals as well as the interest in involving academia to assist with understanding  animal behaviour better, in order to improve their welfare and wellbeing at the Zoo.[2]

We have unfortunately received disturbing reports about the condition and behaviour of the young adult male African elephant Shankar, kept at the Delhi Zoo. Members of PREN have studied the footage of Shankar engaging in stereotypic behaviour during September 2021.[3]  The reports indicate that Shankar is being kept chained up and that he is standing on hard surfaces for approximately 17 hours a day.  His distress is causing him to self-harm during musth while trying to free himself from his unpadded, metal chains.  

Collectively we all care deeply about elephants and we hereby formally offer the opportunity of collaboration in order for us to discuss possible solutions for improving Shankar’s living conditions for the betterment of his welfare and his future health and well-being. 

According to the Elephant Encyclopaedia and Database[4], Shankar was caught in the wild in Zimbabwe, aged two years old, and gifted to India in 1998. Shankar arrived at the Delhi zoo on the 2nd of October 1998. Shankar has been a solitary elephant since 2005, when his companion Bombai died. 

Recent research has invalidated the previously-held notion that elephant bulls are naturally solitary animals.[5]

Members of PREN have contributed to extensive research into elephant behaviour, cognition[6] and the neurological impacts of captivity[7].  There is growing evidence that elephants are one of the animals who suffer the most in captivity,[8] particularly in solitary confinement.[9]

Generally, elephants are not suited to captivity and Asian elephants are “prone to problems that include poor health, repetitive stereotypic behaviour and breeding difficulties”.[10] 

Maintaining a healthy elephant in a zoo requires a substantial financial commitment, this includes competent and constant management of the elephant’s diet[11], health care provision[12] as well as nurturing their mental wellbeing[13]. In addition, research has shown that despite efforts to provide enrichment at zoos, the needs of elephants are still compromised in captive environments.[14] Not only are captive elephants likely to acquire physical ailments that invariably shorten their lifespan,[15] they are also prone to developing psychological issues that can result in depression[16] and aggressive behaviour, particularly in the case of solitary bulls[17].

Elephants in the wild naturally cover long distances (typically 10-50-km) every day, while feeding on a rich variety of vegetation across different ecosystems. Their home ranges cover hundreds of square kilometres.[18] When elephants are restricted in a captive environment, they frequently develop musculoskeletal and cardiovascular conditions, which can prove fatal.[19] Elephants also requiremental stimulation[20]−their natural behaviours include mud wallowing, bathing, interacting with their companions[21] through touch, vocalisation and olfaction, mourning their dead[22] and countless other social behaviours[23].  Given their complex cognitive abilities, intelligence,[24] empathy[25] and sentience[26], elephants have a suite of emotional responses and physical behaviours.  When elephants are held in captivity, in undersized enclosure often in indoor confinement with inappropriate hard substrates and a lack of enrichment, this results in physical and psychological trauma, abnormal behaviour, and premature death.[27]

Stereotypy−the repetitive swaying and head-bobbing−is commonly seen in captive elephants. It is well known that these behaviours are caused by being held in unnatural, restrictive environments, and from exposure to psychological stress that has direct physiological consequences.[28]

The Ministerial Circular of 7th November 2009 (File 7-5/2007-CZA; Vol III), banned the keeping of elephants in Zoo collections in India.[29] PREN would therefore like to offer our collaborative expertise. Members of the Pro Elephant Network have participated in the successful relocation and reintegration of elephants, particularly solitary ones, into more natural environments[30] in Africa and Asia.

We are sure that you are aware of the recent relocation of Kaavan, formerly resident at the Islamabad Zoo, to a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia.  This event made global news[31] and the international publicity positively highlighted the decisions taken by the administrators of Islamabad Zoo. 

Therefore, in summation, we respectfully urge you to explore possible remedies and engage with members of PREN to discuss solutions for the Zoo and for Shankar, so that his biological, psychological and social needs can be better met.

PREN welcomes further engagement on this subject matter and we look forward to hearing from you in this regard.