World Elephant Day - Two rescued elephants grazing at the Sanctuary Following Giants in Thailand.

World Elephant Day

Despite their size, popularity and status, elephants desperately need protection. For World Elephant Day, let’s learn more about elephants and what we can do to help them.

When is World Elephant Day?

World Elephant Day is an annual event held on the 12th August. Launched in 2012, World Elephant Day aims to bring more public awareness to the plight of both Asian and African elephants.

3 world elephant day facts

1. Elephants live in close family groups

Elephants form strong emotional bonds with other members of their herd. They’re strongly social animals and will rest for longer if another elephant is also resting nearby.

2. Elephants are individuals

Each elephant has their own individual personality. Their personality traits influence their social role within the herd and even how they try to solve problems.

3. Elephants are playful

Elephants love to play, and not just as youngsters. Fully-grown elephants throw water into the air, roll on the ground, and even chase other animals simply for fun.

Why elephants need protection

Due to their size and power, elephants rarely have to worry about being hunted by other animals. Their biggest threats all come from humans.

Elephants are exploited for tourism

One of the biggest threats to elephants comes from the tourism and entertainment industries. Well-meaning tourists are encouraged to take part in various activities with the elephants, such as rides, washing, bathing, and feeding.

Although these seem harmless, being ridden is not natural elephant behaviour. These tourist attractions often inflict significant suffering on the elephants involved.

Circuses and elephant ‘shows’ raise similar concerns. Elephants in these shows are trained to perform a series of unnatural (and sometimes painful) activities, such as standing on their hind legs. They are then forced to perform in a noisy, intimidating environment focused on human entertainment at the expense of animal welfare.

Even supposedly ethical tourist experiences, such as assisting at ‘sanctuaries’ and washing elephants, are traumatic for elephants. These are commercial ventures where animals are subjected to pain and fear from an early age to force them to be compliant.

Elephants are hunted for ivory

Despite growing awareness of the true cost of ivory, it’s estimated that poachers still kill approximately 20,000 elephants every year for their tusks. 

This level of killing may even be changing elephant genetics. Elephants in the wild are increasingly born with smaller tusks, or even tuskless. This is at least partly because individuals with larger tusks are removed from the gene pool by poachers.'

Mundi in her new home the Elephant Refuge North America (ERNA) in Georgia, US.

In May 2023, World Animal Protection partnered with Elephant Refuge North America (ERNA) to support the rescue of Mundi, a female African Savannah Elephant, and her transfer from Mayaguez Zoo in Puerto Rico to ERNA’s sanctuary in Attapulgus, Georgia, US. Mundi was born in 1982 in Zimbabwe. She was orphaned young, captured from the wild, moved to the US, trained cruelly, traded, and exploited for entertainment. Her case symbolises the entertainment industry's exploitation of wild animals as commodities.

There are lots of ways that you can celebrate World Elephant Day and help protect elephants in the wild. Here are some great suggestions

Support our work for animal sentience recognition

Elephants are just one example of sentient animals being harmed for human profit or entertainment. Join us in campaigning to encourage governments to recognise animal sentience.

Be a responsible traveller

Responsible travellers and tourists never take part in activities that are harmful to animals. This means avoiding elephant rides or any encounters where elephants are pressured or coerced. Check out our guide to responsible travel for more information.

Support our teams trying to stop elephant rides

We have a team in India working tirelessly to stop elephant rides for good and they need your support.

Find out how you can help

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What do elephants eat?

As herbivores, elephants eat many different plants. They eat all parts of the plants, including leaves, grasses, roots, fruits, and even bark.

How do elephants communicate?

Elephants communicate through very low-pitched sounds. These are too low for human hearing but can be heard by elephants over a mile away. They also use touch to communicate with nearby members of their herd.

Where do elephants live?

Elephants mainly live in savannahs, grasslands, and forests, but their habitat can extend into marshes and even deserts. They’re found across Africa and Asia in tropical and subtropical regions.