Single elephant in woodland

Amazing Elephant Mothers: A Mother's Day Tribute


Elephant matriarchs are among the most wonderful mothers in the animal kingdom. This Mother’s Day we spotlight some remarkable facts that make elephants exceptional in their maternal roles and how this is greatly impacted upon when these majestic animals are bred in captivity.

Unfortunately, an entire industry has grown around elephant tourism and elephants that are bred in captivity for entertainment suffer on a daily basis.

The suffering begins when they are born into captivity. Babies are separated from their mother as young calves when they are just 1 or 2 years old. They are chained, isolated and beaten for weeks to make them submissive and comply with what tourists pay for – washing, bathing, riding and feeding.

In this image, an elephant named Gintaala places her trunk over her one and a half year old baby Boonshoo before the separation begins.

We're trying to to change the system

Elephant mums need your help

After the traumatic separation of mother and calf, elephants are often kept in appalling conditions, chained on concrete floors, fed poor diets and not given the opportunity to show their natural behaviours. Our team in Thailand have collected over 50,000 signatures and have been calling on the Thai government to ban elephant breeding in captivity and improve the welfare of captive elephants.

Sign the petition, it only takes 2 minutes

Find out some key facts about elephants below and why we must stop breeding these sentient animals for profit.

Longest pregnancy in the animal kingdom

One of the fascinating facts about elephant mothers is the duration of their pregnancies, which is around 22 months. This extended gestation period sets a record in the animal kingdom.

Exceptional memory and knowledge transfer

Elephants have an exceptional memory. This plays a vital role in passing down crucial knowledge to their offspring. From identifying water sources to recognising potential threats, elephant mothers contribute significantly to the survival skills of the younger generation.

Fierce protectors

Elephant mothers are extremely protective of their calves, creating a shield around them when danger is close. The entire family will get involved to ensure the safety of the youngest members. It's a testament to the strong familial bonds within elephant herds.

Unique bond through touch and sounds

The bond between elephant mothers and their calves is very strong. This unique connection is often expressed through trunk caresses, gentle touches, and reassuring sounds.

Active teaching and guidance

Elephant mothers take an active role in shaping the survival skills of their young ones. From identifying safe routes and understanding the social structure of the herd to finding food, they provide hands-on education crucial for their offspring's well-being.

Compassionate adoption

In some instances, female elephants may adopt and care for orphaned calves within their herd, demonstrating a sense of community and compassion.

Deep mourning rituals

Elephants, known for their intelligence and emotional depth, engage in mourning rituals when a family member or calf passes away. Their expressions of grief include lingering around the remains, tenderly touching, and caressing, highlighting the emotional connections within the elephant community.

How you can help:

People are bathing, washing and interacting with an elephant. One of the people is sitting on the elephant's trunk.

Avoid elephant entertainment

Don’t ride, wash, bathe or hug an elephant or watch an elephant show – only visit observation-only venues where the elephants are free to be elephants

An elephant is standing behind a fence and is reaching out to tourists with its trunk. The tourists are standing in front of the elephant taking selfies and pictures.

Question travel companies

Question travel companies selling elephant rides, washing or bathing experiences or elephant shows

A close up photograph of an elephant's face. The eyes can be seen in great detail.

Spread the word

Tell your family and friends all about how to be an elephant-friendly tourist and only see elephants in the wild or in an observation-only sanctuary.

Join our community to make a difference.

We campaign to improve the lives of animals in the UK and around the world. Why not join us today?

Join us to end animal cruelty


More about