I. Conservation of Elephants
The survival and well being of elephants is threatened by escalating poaching for the commercial trade in ivory and meat, the increasing loss and fragmentation of natural habitats, and by locally increasing conflict with humans over diminishing resources. These threats are fuelled by a growing market for ivory in Asia, by poverty and civil unrest, and exacerbated by misguided public policy.
Elephants as a species and as individuals have an intrinsic right to exist. We have an obligation to protect elephants and their habitats and to ensure their well being and continued survival in the face of human exploitation, encroachment and interference. If we wish elephants to survive we must bring a halt to the commercial trade in ivory and make major adjustments in public policies so to reduce conflict and promote peaceful coexistence.
II. Co-existence of People and Elephants
Rapidly expanding human populations, increasing levels of human consumption and the technologically enabled incursion of human activities into areas previously remote or uninhabited by people is causing the depletion and fragmentation of traditional elephant habitat, conflict and loss of life.
We must minimise the causes of conflict and promote the peaceful co-existence of people and elephants to ensure the survival of elephants and reduce suffering. Good governance in elephant range states is essential to success in this endeavor.
III. Management and Welfare of Elephants
The perceived necessity for invasive elephant management practices such as the culling of populations and the shooting of 'problem' individuals is a consequence of increasing human demand for natural resources and shrinking elephant habitats. Commercial gain and human gratification motivate trophy hunting and the capture of elephants for human use. These practices are inhumane and have negative impacts on elephant society and behavior, and may exacerbate elephant aggression towards humans.
Elephants exhibit an interest in their own lives and empathy for those to whom they are attached; they have an intrinsic right to experience a life of well-being. Through human imagination and our scientific and creative abilities, we can and must curb our demand for the planet’s natural resources and, wherever possible, reduce our reliance on cruel and invasive elephant management practices.
IV. Management and Welfare of Elephants Held Captive
All elephants, including those held captive, are wild animals, and share traits that have evolved over millions of years. For over four thousands years the welfare of captive elephants has been compromised through human ignorance, indifference and self-indulgence. In an ideal world elephants would not be held in captivity, but thousands are. Captive and confined elephants suffer from a host of physical and psychological conditions not observed in the wild. Good zoos and other welfare oriented captive environments are making strides to improve the living conditions of captive elephants.
Elephants have an intrinsic right to experience a life for which, through evolutionary time, they have been adapted. We must endeavor to ensure that the core interests of captive elephants are met such that they do not suffer as a consequence of our actions. We encourage all those working toward improving the lives of captive elephants.
V. Need for Space
Elephants are intelligent and vigorous creatures that have evolved in an extensive and complex physical and social environment. Adapted to vast areas, the continuous larger and smaller scale movements related to the search for food, water, companions and mates are essential for elephant well being.
Elephants require sustained biologically relevant activities for body and mind. We are obliged to account for this and the consequent necessity of large space for elephants in the wild and sufficient space in captivity.
VI. Ecosystem Integrity
Elephants interact in dramatic and complex ways with whole landscapes and ecosystems. Confinement of elephants may have multifaceted environmental consequences for both elephants and the species with which they share their natural space. Equally, their removal from ecosystems can have multifaceted environmental consequences.
We have an obligation to maintain the integrity of ecosystems that elephants inhabit, and must take realistic account of the needs of elephants in the planning and management of protected areas and landscapes.
VII. Complex Social Organization
Elephants’ natural social relationships radiate out from the mother-offspring bond, through extended family, bond group, clan, population and beyond to strangers. Their social network is unusually large and complex compared to most terrestrial mammals. Elephants have evolved physical and behavioral traits and mental and emotional capacities for thriving in a rich social world.
We deprive elephants and harm their emotional well being when we deny them access to a range of social partners; our treatment of elephants should recognize and protect their highly social character.
VIII. Social Needs
Within a multi-tiered social network elephants exhibit strong and enduring attachments, some of which last a lifetime. The support and companionship of family members, as well as the formation and maintenance of close relationships, are vital to an elephant’s emotional and social development, well-being and survival.
We psychologically deprive and harm elephants when we separate or kill members of an elephant family or a close social group; our treatment of wild and captive elephants must recognize and protect the integrity of close social relationships.
IX. Family Ties
Family members play a crucial socializing and bonding role in the birth and development of elephant calves. The presence of mother and family is essential for the survival and the normal, healthy development of elephant calves. Without these relationships elephants grow up socially incompetent and the lasting effects of trauma suffered by elephants may translate into a cycle of violence directed toward human beings and other unusual objects of aggression.
We harm elephants when through human intervention we break close social bonds; in particular our management practices must strive not to break the bonds between mothers and their offspring.
X. Male Elephant Social Relationships and Musth
Male elephant relationships are dynamic, diverse and complex. Their relationships with mother and allomothers, and later with peers, rivals and mates are influenced by personality. During the state of musth males exhibit great physical vigour and enormous sexual and aggressive energy, compelling them to listen, smell, mark, walk, interact and search over vast areas for receptive females and rival males.
We deprive captive male elephants of normal, healthy socio-sexual development when we deny them access to a diversity of social partners, hold them in isolation and restrict their movement and activity to small enclosures. Our care of captive elephants must recognize the importance of social relationships for males in all stages of life. It must account for their enormous drive by providing them with space and, the possibility for appropriate interactions.
XI. Social Learning and Culture
Much of elephant behavior is acquired through interaction with others, and social learning plays an essential role in the development and maintenance of elephant social complexity.
We harm and deprive elephants when through interventive management practices we deny them the opportunity for social learning; we must allow elephants to acquire the full range of elephant behavior in a normal social context.
XII. The Value of Longevity
Elephants are extremely long-lived mammals; longevity, experience and reproductive success go hand in hand. Older matriarchs act as a repository of social and ecological knowledge, thereby influencing the reproductive success and survival of their family members, while older males are the primary breeders.
We damage the fabric of elephant society when we remove older individuals; our management of wild elephants must reflect the importance of older males and females in maintaining the integrity of elephant society.
XIII. Cognitive Capacity
Elephants are unusually intelligent and perceptive; they exhibit the advanced traits of empathy, self-awareness and complex emotions, expressing an interest in their own lives and the lives of those to whom they are attached. The cognitive capacities of elephants demand respect and special moral consideration in all of our interactions with them as individuals.
We must incorporate the cognitive abilities of elephants into our management and care of wild and captive elephants.