The Oklahoma City Zoo's dedication to the care of its elephants, and the protection of wild elephants, is key to our mission. We support vital conservation work in Asia that protect elephants and their habitat, reducing human⁄elephant conflict and incorporating the talents of the people who live in their midst.
Our Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, a network of 223 of the finest zoos and aquariums in North America, all committed to animal well-being and conservation. We provide our elephants with excellent nutrition, exercise, veterinary care and environmental enrichment. Learn more about how we care for elephants, our network of professionals, and the important work we support globally to save some of the most majestic and awe–inspiring animals on earth.
The Zoo supports the PanEco Foundation, Sumatra with a focus on elephant habitat protection, assisting in elephant/human conflict, responding to crop raids by elephants, setting up elephant corridors, promoting eco-tourism at the Tangkahan Conservation Response Unit (CRU) as well as work at other CRUs.
Elephant conservation is extremely complex and must take into account both human and animal needs. Negative elephant⁄human interactions include crop loss, human fatalities and damage to houses or other structures. Positive interactions include ecotourism, especially when the local community benefits from the tourist revenues. By working to save the native habitat of elephants, we also help dozens of other species through our conservation efforts.
Seeing elephants in their natural environment may create inspirational experiences that foster positive attitudes towards elephants. Creative solutions to human⁄elephant conflicts must involve the local people and benefit them, as well as elephants.
For more information about elephants and Conservation:
- ASSOCIATION OF ZOOS & AQUARIUM'S ELEPHANT TAXON ADVISORY GROUP and SPECIES SURVIVAL PLAN
- INTERNATIONAL ELEPHANT FOUNDATION
Breeding Elephants in Zoos
Maintaining elephant populations in zoos is essential for preserving elephants in the wild. Elephants are under extreme pressure from human-elephant conflict, poaching and habitat loss.
Seeing elephants in zoos helps people connect to these magnificent creatures in a way they can't experience through books, TV programs or the Internet. Moreover, not everyone can afford to travel to Africa or Asia. The impact of seeing an elephant, tiger, gorilla or other animal up close is powerful. Outside of the wild, no other venue can match this.
Zoos breed elephants because there is a critical need to save elephants in the wild. If people are to care about elephants, they need to learn about elephants. Zoos provide a powerful venue to make this happen. We need elephants in zoos, in real life and real time, to champion conservation for their wild counterparts. Additionally, breeding enhances animal welfare. it is very enriching and natural for elephants to experience a birth, rear young and live in a multi-generational herd.
As an accredited institution of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), the Oklahoma City Zoo remains steadfast in our commitment to the long-term survival of Asian elephants in the North American population. We participate in AZA's Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program to help ensure genetic diversity and demographic stability in North American zoos. There is unanimous agreement among the world's leading experts in zoos and elephant research institutions that we should continue our commitment to breeding elephants.
Preserving the Future for Elephants
Preserving the future of this fascinating species is critically important. As humans continue to infiltrate into elephant habitats, elephants are destroying homes or raiding crops as they migrate or forage for food. As a result, many elephants are shot or poisoned for encroaching on human areas because they pose a danger or become pests. Due to human activity, there is no longer room for elephants in the landscape.
In zoos, these awe-inspiring animals are powerful conservation ambassadors to educate visitors, help visitors make emotional connections, and change behaviors that positively impact elephant and other wildlife conservation. If elephants can only be seen by limited numbers of people in their range countries, and we don't see them or learn about the perils they face in the wild, these magnificent animals will disappear forever from our planet.
Elephants need zoos and zoos need elephants to help their cousins in the wild. Zoo studies on elephant biology and behavior would be challenging or impossible in the field. Working with populations in zoos has a positive effect on conservation, and the information gathered is relevant to helping and understanding wild populations. Virtually everything we know---elephant reproductive physiology, low frequency and olfactory communication, DNA testing of elephant populations to track poached ivory, and cognitive ability---comes from studies on elephants in zoos. The Oklahoma City Zoo and AZA zoos routinely contribute to this growing body of work and knowledge. Without elephants in zoos, we could not continue our work to support elephant conservation in Asia and Africa.
We are playing an essential role in the long-term survival of elephants in the wild. AZA institutions support and generate millions in funding for elephant conservation projects.