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Elephant exploitation



In many parts of Asia, there are countless elephant tourist parks and camps. The devastating reality is that this tourist-driven demand is fuelling a cruel and illegal trade in elephants. Once stolen from the wild, elephants are forced to endure the most profound cruelty - brutal training rituals employed to break the elephant's spirit and to instill a fear of humans.

Elephants have been used for centuries in various Asian countries in a variety of ways, including as laborers and for transport. Their tusks, despite official legal protections, are still highly prized as ivory. Elephants have never become domesticated as a species, though are often viewed as such. Cruel training methods are commonly employed to force captive elephants to comply with the wishes of their human handlers. 

Asian elephants are Endangered but are unfortunately still captured from the wild on a regular basis in some areas.  As machinery becomes more widely available, and their previous uses become more obsolete, "unemployed" elephants have been repurposed as riding elephants for tourists, or have become "begging elephants" in the streets of some Indian and Thai cities. 

As shrinking habitats force wild elephants into ever close contact with humans, serious conflict has arisen in some areas, putting both elephants and humans in real danger.  

The Asia for Animals Coalition possesses a great collective understanding of the issues faced by elephants across Asia, and has recently formed the Elephant Coalition in order to promote ethical elephant tourism models in which the elephant owners, trainers and members of the public can experience these wonderful animals without having harmful impacts.




The marine mammal captivity industry continues to threaten wild populations and inflicts cruelty and suffering on thousands of individual animals.

The marine mammal industry is big business and is driven by the attraction for people to see these amazing and iconic animals up close and, in many cases, to swim or interact with them. However, life in a marine park is totally unsuitable for these animals.

The marine mammal industry is big business and is driven by the attraction for people to see these amazing and iconic animals up close and, in many cases, to swim or interact with them. However, life in a marine park is totally unsuitable for these animals.

Live Capture from the Wild

Many dolphins and whales are caught from the wild to supply the captive marine mammal industry, presenting serious animal welfare and conservation concerns:

  • Families are separated from each other;

  • Cetaceans can be injured and killed during the capture process;

  • Studies are rarely conducted to ascertain what happens to those animals left behind;

  • Once removed from their natural environment dolphins are transported to small enclosures which lack not only their families and social groups but also the open space to which they are accustomed;

  • Research shows that death rates increase six-fold during and immediately after capture.[1]


Once removed from their natural environment, cetaceans are transported to tanks and swimming pools which lack not only their families and social groups but also the open space to which they are accustomed. According to the Humane Society of the United States, a "spike in mortality also occurs every time dolphins are transported. Each time they are confined and shipped from one place to another, it is as traumatic as if they were being newly captured from the wild. The experience of being removed from water and restrained is apparently so stressful to dolphins that they never find it routine"

Life in a tank

A life in a tank is so far removed from a cetacean's natural environment that the effect this has on their mental and physical state is almost inconceivable. In the wild, cetaceans live in social groups, but in captivity many are kept alone and mothers and calves are regularly separated. They are intelligent and wide-ranging animals, swimming up to 60 miles a day, and can attain speeds up to 22 mph and dive to depths to over one thousand feet!

Captivity presents a lack of the social, visual and auditory stimuli of their natural environment. Tanks used to house dolphins and whales are "concrete" environments with no variety, no texture, no substance and no depth. The water is chemically-treated, meaning that no live fish or plants can be placed inside, thus leaving the tank barren, with no mental stimulation. These chemicals can potentially cause ulcers and skin lesions.

A life in captivity has a devastating effect on a cetacean's welfare, resulting in abnormal behaviours, injury, illness, and in some cases premature deaths.

[1] R. J. Small and D. P. DeMaster, "Acclimation to captivity: A quantitative estimate based on survival of bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions," Marine Mammal Science 11 (1995): 510–519

Animal performances


The combined aspects of performances, abusive training methods and inadequate housing conditions are causing severe animal suffering for many thousands of performing animals across Asia.

The welfare of captive wild animals used in circus performances is severely compromised by their training, performances, poor living conditions, and in a number of cases their capture from the wild.


The conditions in which circus animals are often housed are at best unsuitable, at worst barbaric and cruel. Animals are frequently held in close confinement, and social animals, such as elephants and macaques, are often housed in isolation The lack of appropriate social interaction, and the restricted freedom to perform many natural behaviours represent psychological and physical stressors for many performing animals.

The animals are released from the confinement of their barren cages for the few minutes of their "performance" and for training sessions. The training techniques adopted in order to force circus animals to perform unnatural tricks are brutal. Trainers often beat animals until they perform a desired trick, withhold food, and use force and fear to ensure animals continue to perform day after day.

During training and performances, the animals are exposed to regular human handling and excessive noise. Loud music used during animal performances, together with crowd noise, can cause stress and severe welfare problems.

To render some animals, such as tigers and lions, less dangerous to trainers, de-toothing and declawing are common practices, causing severe and chronic pain and leads to an inability for the animals to perform natural behaviours.

Teaching animals to perform inappropriate tricks portrays them to the public in a humiliating manner, instead of showing their natural grace and beauty and thereby promoting empathy and respect.


Wildlife in captivity (zoos and safari parks)


Thousands of wild animals are kept in captivity in zoos and safari parks throughout Asia. Many are living in the most appalling of conditions, suffering hugely, both physically and psychologically.

It is not possible for any captive facility to provide for all the physical, behavioural and psychological needs of the wild animals they house. The conditions are artificial and do not allow animals to behave in a manner that is natural to them. The level at which a captive wild animal facility can provide for an animal's needs depends upon a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, the level of knowledge and expertise with regards to behaviour management and enclosure design; the veterinary skills and facilities available; the level of staff training; the complexities of the species exhibited; the resources available; and the willingness of the management team to prioritise the needs of the animals over income generation or demands from the public.

Sadly, all too often, wild animals suffer in zoos and other wildlife holding facilities throughout the region- and the world- living in the most appalling conditions, with no enrichment or stimulation, causing both physical and psychological suffering, often displayed as stereotypic behaviour such as repetitive pacing, bar-licking, rocking and head-bobbing.

The following conditions cause severe welfare problems for captive wild animals.

Animals in barren, cramped conditions in which they have neither the space nor the materials to carry out their natural behaviours; Enclosures where the animals have no opportunity to avoid the constant public gaze;Inadequate or unsuitable diets; Social animals, such as elephants, chimpanzees and macaques, are often housed in social isolation, in groups smaller than the average group size in the wild, or in unnatural groupings. Young animals removed from their mothers to be hand reared and displayed within animal nurseries. Animals trapped from the wild to live a life in captivity.

These conditions lead to many animals becoming stressed and this can have short-term as well as chronic long-term behavioural and physiological effects. Through time this can induce poor welfare by compromising health, altering brain function, and lowering life expectancy.[1]

Many zoos operate as commercial enterprises, buying, selling and breeding animals, often without consideration for the individuals. Whilst zoos continue to adopt this approach, the interests of individual animals are likely to be compromised and in some cases animals' lives may be needlessly lost due to animals being deemed as surplus to the requirements of the institution and/or the breeding programme.




Some macaque species have adapted to life alongside humans, either in urban or rural settings, incredibly well.  But this brings them into conflict with people.  Often considered "common", pests, or overabundant, macaques are particularly vulnerable to mistreatment and their protection is rarely prioritised. 

Asia for Animals Coalition network members are contacted regularly about issues involving macaques.  There are twenty-three species of macaque and a handful of these species are amongst the most visible, and possibly the most exploited, monkeys on earth. 

Several macaque species have adapted especially well to living in or near human-dominated environments, learning to get their food from rubbish dumps, fields of crops, handouts from tourists or temple offerings rather than foraging for fruit far away from human influence. In many of these cases they are considered to be pests, overabundant, bold, and dangerous.  They can be trapped, killed, kept as pets, used as performers, or even used as labourers - though much of this is illegal in most Asian countries, these practices are common and cause significant suffering. 


The Asia for Animals Coalition is currently forming the Macaque Coalition in order to help alleviate these issues.   

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