How many elephants are in captivity in the United States?



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    According to Elephant Voices, which is a 501 (c)(3) charity in California, there are 15,000-20,000 captive elephants globally. Elephant Voices cites the central reason for captivity as “entertainment.” Elephant captivity is a tradition 4,000 years in the making. Captivity began because elephants were used in war and for heavy logging and construction work, yet all of this changed with the onset of the industrial revolution and new machinery. Elephant captivity began in the Indus Valley, where people captured, trained, and tamed elephants. Elephant Voices states that elephants are not domesticated, rather they are tamed, because domestication would require “many generations of selective breeding” separate from wild populations.  If true domestication were to occur it would result in genetic adaptations, which have not been achieved. A central goal of Elephant Voices is to promote education, rescue, sanctuary, and reintroduction into the wild. 

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