Today’s EleFACT delves into the misconception that, because elephants can be taught to perform certain behaviors, or because they have close contact with humans, they are actually domesticated animals. Though humans have been interacting with and using elephants for labor or entertainment purposes, that doesn’t take away their wild nature.
Domestication, like you would see with your dogs or cats, involves selecting specific characteristics and breeding to enhance those chosen features. This takes generations and involves genetic changes over time. Experts estimate that, to be domesticated, animals likely require at least 10-12 generations of selective breeding to reach a domesticated state. During that process, offspring from each generation are chosen for further breeding based on the desired traits. This can alter the animal’s basic instincts and anatomy. For instance, a dog or cat might be bred to have a specific kind of ear or tail, a calm or energetic personality.
Throughout the 3,000-year history of humans using elephants for various purposes, most elephants have been captured from the wild. A few may be first or second generation captive born, but they are not bred selectively for the traits humans might want. It’s not possible for one individual wild animal to become domesticated within their lifetime.
This is an important concept to understand, because the misconception allows people to view elephants as they would a pet, seeing them chained, ridden, or performing as normal. The reality is that, even in captivity, elephants are wild animals and should be respected and treated as such.
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Barb saysJuly 29, 2022 at 2:07 pm
Pam saysJuly 29, 2022 at 2:07 pm
Thank you so much for this important information. I hope many many people read this article and become more educated!
JoAnn Merriman-Eaton saysJuly 29, 2022 at 2:33 pm
LOVE Ele Facts on Fridays. I have learned so many details about appearance and behavior that I did not know. Thank you GSE.
Carol Goldstein O’Connell saysJuly 29, 2022 at 3:50 pm
Amen. Let the humans in this world understand and respect ALL wild animals on this earth!!!🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻
Wim saysJuly 29, 2022 at 5:39 pm
Very well explained. I totally agree.
Alice saysJuly 29, 2022 at 6:18 pm
Very well said, Sara. I wish all elephants could roam free in the wild rather than being used for work or entertainment.
SHEILA saysJuly 31, 2022 at 2:23 am
GREAT INFO, YES. HUMANS MAY THINK THEY HAVE WILD ANIMALS TRAINED TO OBEY THEM BUT I BELIEVE HUMANS CANNOT 100%
TRUST THAT ANY WILD ANIMAL WILL REMAIN FRIENDLY, LOVING AND MANAGEABLE. THEIR INSTINCT. WILL ALWAYS BE WILD. NOT CAPTIVE
Lisa Ching saysJuly 31, 2022 at 5:16 pm
Thank you for the insightful clarification.
Carol Keith saysJuly 31, 2022 at 7:40 pm
From what I’ve read and heard these animals are simply afraid of what the human may do next. Sadly, they don’t realize just how powerful they are and humans take advantage of that. They will always be wild…but unfortunately captive, wild, animals.
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EleFACT Friday: Can Elephants Be Domesticated?