How do you keep an elephant happy in a zoo? To raise elephants, zoos must pay careful attention to the area enclosed by elephant pens. It takes a lot of room to keep an elephant happy in captivity.
Bigger Is Better
In the past, zoos kept solitary elephants in very small cages with dirt floors. Now, experts know that pachyderms need a lot of room to move, learn, and socialize. The current guidelines from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) set strict limits on elephant cages. Each zoo must provide each elephant with between 400 and 600 square feet of indoor space and 5400 square feet of outdoor space. A zoo must have at least 5 elephants in its herd. Finally, elephant pens should include enough shade, grass, mud, dirt, and water to allow the herd to travel and explore together. Zoos that don’t follow these rules can lose their elephants.
Today, many zoos devote several acres of land to their elephants. For instance, in June 2013 the Oregon Zoo began construction on a new elephant enclosure. The new habitat will take two years to build and will cover 6.25 acres. However, some activists say that these new homes still aren’t large enough. They want elephants in captivity to have access to thousands of acres.
See for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0Z_vRYQ_Sg
Watch the following videos to learn more about elephant habitats and find out what different zoos have done with their pens.