India is home to an estimated 26,000 wild elephants! There are four major pockets containing viable populations located in the north, northeast, east, and south of the country. It seems India’s wild elephant population is stable or maybe even on the rise. However, a rapidly growing human population means increasing habitat loss and Human-elephant conflict are constant threats. Deaths due to accidents along train tracks, poisoning, and electrocutions are notably high in India. Unlike other Asian range states, the poaching of wild tusker bulls for ivory is an important conservation concern. In some areas, poaching has greatly misaligned the male to female sex ratio, as much as 1 male to every 60 females. ‘Project Elephant’, created in 1992 and supported by the government, is an essential program for wild elephant conservation in India.

For thousands of years, elephants played leading roles in India’s cultural, religious, military and economic realms. Today, there are approximately 3,500 elephants in captivity. Privately or institutionally owned captive elephants are found in temples, ceremonies, weddings, performances, begging, and tourism. These elephants often live in poor conditions and are overworked, especially during festival seasons. Government owned captive elephants usually work in forest protection, anti-poaching patrols, and giving tourist rides in national parks. Others are housed in zoos. Government elephants often have access to forested areas and generally receive better veterinary care.

To have an elephant experience in India, it may be best to take a responsible jeep safari into a protected area to observe and appreciate endangered wild Asian elephants. For the moment, we are unaware of any established captive elephant sanctuaries; however, we do highly recommend the following wildlife rescue facility.


-Wildlife SOS

Started by Kartick Satyanarayan and Geeta Seshamani , Wildlife SOS is a non for profit organization founded in 1995. Conserving India’s wildlife, fighting animal cruelty, educating the public, rescuing animals in need, and promoting alternative livelihoods for communities dependent on wildlife are just some of Wildlife SOS’s important initiatives. Once known for their efforts to end dancing bears in the country, today Wildlife SOS is also recognized for their elephant rescues. Even so, many other species including leopards, sloth bears, reptiles, primates, and more have been helped by the organization.

Twenty elephants are currently homed at Wildlife SOS’s Elephant Conservation and Care center. Rescued from circuses, begging, riding, or temples, many of the elephants are in need of on-going medical treatment, rest, and mental rehabilitation. Wildlife SOS provides them with a caring atmosphere to heal, a high quality diet, and on-site veterinary care. Each elephant is assigned several caring mahouts trained in positive reinforcement.

The Elephant Conservation and Care center is a one-hour drive from Agra or a three and half hour drive from New Delhi. Day visits and volunteer stays are possible. Children and seniors will find the center easy to navigate. Take advantage of a guided tour and Wildlife SOS’s excellent education program. Activities include feeding, photos, and walking with the elephants. Visitor numbers vary, but the elephants’ needs are always a top priority. For more information about the Elephant Conservation and Care center, or to visit the bear facilities, please contact Wildlife SOS.