The United Kingdom is moving forward on a ban that will prohibit elephants from being featured inside zoos and safaris across the country. The Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill is scheduled to be passed later this year and will enact regulations to elephant trade within the entire UK. The ban is supported by a forthcoming report that details the issues behind elephant captivity, explaining how zoos and safaris cannot meet the standards necessary to satisfy the elephants’ natural behaviors. The bill was started by environment minister Zac Goldsmith and joins a larger slew of zoo reforms that will supplement the Kept Animals Bill.

“Elephants are highly intelligent, extremely social, sentient beings with complex family structures and bonds that last a lifetime,” Wildlife Director of Humane Society International and Elephant biologist Audrey Delisink, Ph.D. said, welcoming the new legislation that she hopes will prevent future generations of elephants from suffering. “They require space to roam freely with other elephants where they can express normal elephant behaviors and thrive emotionally and physically.”

While in captivity, elephants are afflicted by several ailments such as arthritis, hernias, and mental degradation. Typically, elephants have a lifespan that ranges up to 50 years in the wild, but captivity shortens the life expectancy to just 17 years. The UK currently holds 51 elephants at 11 zoos across the UK. The legislation will allow the elephants to live out their lives in captivity but will prohibit any breeding or capture for replacement.

Last year, the UK started this movement to protect elephants across the country when it phased out wild animals from circuses. The ban meant to prohibit animal exploitation used typically in circuses for entertainment purposes.

The UK’s Kept Animals Bill will continue to expand to encompass other animals in captivity. The campaign will position itself against zoos and aquariums that keep other wild animals in captivity outside of their natural habitats.

“Marine mammals also suffer whilst in captivity as they too are highly social, long-lived beings and are unable to carry out their natural behaviors to their full capacity,” Delsink told VegNews. “Like elephants, marine mammals try to cope with captivity by adopting abnormal behaviors known as ‘stereotypies’ - repetitive, purposeless habits to combat stress and boredom.”

The central concern behind the legislation and campaign to release animals is the unnatural confinement that these animals suffer. Delsink goes on to explain a professor of neuroscience at Colorado College Bob Jacobs' work that is dedicated to observing the neurological damage faced by these confined animals. Jacobs' work details how captivity can lead to compromised brain function and eventually future health and safety concerns.

"Research by Professor Jacobs and many other scientists on the neurological effects of caging animals presents us with evidence that can no longer be disputed," Delsink continued. "[UK's forthcoming elephant] legislation is testimony to this work and key to forcing us to examine how we treat animals for the sake of our entertainment and so-called education. Today's technology offers a myriad of highly immersive educational methods to teach us everything from black holes to dinosaurs - things we will have never seen but nonetheless know about."

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