WILL TRAVERS / PRESIDENT, BORN FREE FOUNDATION


The Elephant in the Room is a powerful indictment of just what we are doing to so many of these magnificent animals. From a physical, psychological, behavioural, social and emotional perspective, solitary confinement in captivity is a living death for elephants.


This short film is a must-see. It resonates with all the power and conviction of Blackfish and has the power, if viewed by enough people, to change lives.

 

TARIQ CHOW / DIRECTOR, THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM


It is impossible not to be moved by the suffering of a helpless animal. But recognising that an animal is indeed suffering and in need of help is an altogether different matter.


Over the course of making this film, it became depressingly apparent to my team and I that we are, as a society, yet to seriously acknowledge that there is something inherently wrong with the taking of an animal from its family in its natural home and imprisoning it for the rest of its life in a completely alien environment. Perhaps visitors to zoos (and indeed circuses) overlook this trusting that animals are properly taken care of and tended to.


But the report that inspired us to make this documentary makes it clear that in the case of elephants, this is impossible: that the very act of keeping a massive, socially complex and emotionally aware creature in captivity has very real physical and mental consequences. The brutal capture, separation and transportation; the relatively confined enclosures; the colder climate – these are unavoidable components of keeping an Asian or African elephant captive in the West. When compounded with widespread conditions such as concrete floors, insufficient water and a general lack of adequate enrichment, these consequences begin to get serious.


Then consider the case of the elephant kept in isolation: each must, in addition to all that, endure a solitary life devoid of any interaction with others of their kind for decades. For an animal recognised in both science and popular culture as having long memories and as being intelligent, playful, social and gregarious, the effect of such deprivation must be profound. The isolated elephants featured in our film illustrate this vividly.


Of course, there are questions that naturally arise once the reality of elephant captivity is recognised: Is life in a zoo not better than death in the wild at the hands of poachers? Can captive elephants not be sent back to the wild? If not, what can be done to help them? By addressing these questions in the film directly we hope this documentary will inform our audience of both the arguments and the potential solutions.


Ultimately, the problems elephants face in captivity, isolated or otherwise, echo those faced by other captive wildlife. We may love these animals enough to visit them in a zoo, but we must learn to respect them enough to do all we can to permit them to stay – safe and protected – at home, in the wild.

 

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