Learn the differences between zoo and wild elephants. 

Wild elephants vs. zoo elephants

Where was the first place that you saw an elephant in real life? If you are the average person, you might have gotten a glimpse at an elephant in a zoo. 

Some fortunate people have gotten the chance to see an elephant in their natural habitat. In the wild, elephants are found in either Africa or Asia. 

Although wild and zoo elephants are the same animal, there are some differences between them. The best elephant conservation organization wants to share some differences that you probably did not know between wild and zoo elephants. 

Wild elephants walk long distances

In the wild, elephants are found in two different continents - Africa and Asia. You can find these animals frequently on the move for their next meal, water or to avoid predators. These animals can walk up to 194 km (120.5 miles) a day to find the food it needs. On average, an elephant can walk up to 25 km (15.5 miles) in a day. On the other hand, elephants in zoos do not walk these long distances. 

Wild elephants sleep on average two hours a night 

Another difference between wild elephants and zoo elephants is their sleeping habits. In the wild, elephants, on average, sleep two hours a night. Why do they sleep so little? Well, in the forests and Savannas, they have natural predators who can attack them or their young ones. 

Elephants usually sleep in herds, and members usually take turns to sleep. While one group sleeps, the other is on the watch that no predators attract. If there is danger, elephants can go up 46 hours without sleep

Wild elephants can be in conflict with humans 

Although elephants are free to roam in the wild, they are still very cautious of humans. Elephants come into conflict with humans when they roam into crops and villages. The elephants could destroy and eat the farmers' crops. 

If a human hurts an elephant, the elephant could get scared and get wild. In the worst-case scenario, a human or elephant could end up losing their life. Some of the best elephant conservation organization teams, like Elephants Alive, are using bees to prevent conflict between the two. 

Zoo elephants sleep on average four to six hours a day 

Elephants in zoos have fewer things to worry about. These animals do not have to worry about predators hunting them down and can sleep on average four to six hours a day. Zookeepers supply elephants with their everyday food. They do not need to travel long distances to find their next meal. In zoos, elephants are normally given hay, pellets, fruits, vegetables and browse

Zoo elephants are not self-sustaining 

Unfortunately, the zoo's most beloved animal, the elephant, is not self-sustaining in zoos. Elephants could face captive extinction in U.S. zoos if things do not change. The reason behind this is that the elephants' infertility rates are increasing. Currently, there are three births vs. five deaths annually. 

Want to support the best elephant conservation organization? 

Support For Elephants research! Our team is working towards improving reproductive success and determining the best care for elephants in zoos. You can support your research with a donation or purchase of our apparel. Donate here. 

related articles

Three ways that For Elephants is helping save the elephants


These are the three ways that For Elephants is helping African elephants! 

read more

The importance of healthy diets for zoo elephants


Learn why zoo elephants need to maintain healthy diets. 

read more

How For Elephants helps zoos


Check out some of the ways that For Elephants helps zoo across the country. 

read more