A new report titled “10 Worst Zoos for Elephants 2023” highlights the shockingly cruel conditions male elephants — also called bull elephants — are subjected to in zoos across the United States.

The report draws attention to the brain damage, loneliness, and cruel breeding programs bull elephants frequently suffer in zoos.

Elephants are inquisitive, intelligent, active, and social animals who have the instinctual need to roam. In the wild, bull elephants travel with their companions several miles each day, exploring their environments at speeds up to 25 miles per hour. 

In zoos, they are denied these natural instincts and needs, often living in solitary confinement.

The tiny enclosures and loneliness common in zoos can cause bull elephants to display “zoochotic behavior” — repetitive motions that experts say are signs of brain damage and psychological stress.

Billy — a 38-year-old bull at the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens — is a tragic example of an elephant suffering brain damage from the stress of captivity and solitary confinement. In the report’s video, Billy is seen swaying back and forth in the same spot, alone.

In the wild, Billy would have grown up in a matriarchal herd and been free to run for miles with his chosen companions. He would have stayed with that herd until his teenage years, then joined a herd of other bulls to learn from the older male elephants’ guidance.

Many people believe that zoos can benefit conservation efforts, yet this is a misconception.

The report notes that one of the named zoos is continuing to breed Asian elephants — despite a horrific death rate. Not a single baby elephant born at ABQ BioPark Zoo within the last decade has lived, according to the report.

Captive breeding just produces more captive elephants,” In Defense of Animals says in the report. “Artificial insemination, which is often utilized in zoos, produces many more males and the rate of stillbirths is three times as high as natural mating.”

Billy and the other elephants suffering in zoos across the United States deserve to be freed from cruel captivity and sent to reputable sanctuaries. Take action for elephants by vowing to never patronize zoos or other facilities that exploit animals for “entertainment.”

The 10 zoos named in the report are:

  1. Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens, CA
  2. Houston Zoo, TX
  3. ABQ BioPark Zoo, NM
  4. Denver Zoo, CO
  5. Kansas City Zoo & Aquarium, MO
  6. Dallas Zoo, TX
  7. Oklahoma City Zoo, OK
  8. St. Louis Zoo, MO
  9. Zoo Tampa, FL
  10. Oregon Zoo, OR