taking action for

African Elephants

For 30 years we have supported elephant conservation, both by helping to pass AB96, a law which closes loopholes on the ivory trade, and by also donating and raising over $1.3 million to the cause.

The world’s largest land mammal, the elephant, is in trouble. African elephants are going extinct due to loss of habitat, human-wildlife conflict, and the most significant threat: poaching. Poachers kill 55 elephants daily for their tusks. Oakland Zoo envisions a future for elephants free from poaching, with long-term survival and coexistence with humans. Oakland Zoo is committed to protecting elephants in the wild by supporting partners who combat and prevent poaching and address other elephant conservation issues with creative and inclusive solutions.

Conservation Challenges


Over the next decade, poachers will kill one fifth of the wild African elephant population to remove their tusks (ivory). The ivory is illegally trafficked throughout the world for jewelry, souvenirs, and traditional medicine. The illegal wildlife trade is a $19 billion industry run by criminal organizations and has funded genocides, wars, and acts of terrorism in Africa. Elephants are incredibly intelligent and empathetic. It has been documented that the violent act of poachers butchering an individual from the herd leads to post-traumatic stress disorder in surviving individuals and orphaned babies.

Habitat Loss

Habitat loss and fragmentation are a significant threat to the continuing survival of elephants. The roads, infrastructure, and human sprawl that break up or fragment animal habitats are having a negative impact on wild elephant populations. Smaller elephant herds make it difficult for them to survive, leading to inbreeding, which negatively impacts birth rates. Ultimately, the clearance of land use has resulted in lost habitat that will eventually lead to a diminishment of elephants worldwide.

Human-Wildlife Conflict

As humans and elephants increase their fight for space, the human-elephant conflict has started to rise. As human populations grow and move further out from cities, forest and savanna habitats are disappearing to loggers and farmers. The loss of wild habitat means depleted food sources for elephants. This results in elephants seeking out ranches for food, trampling crops, damaging properties, and becoming a dangerous nuisance to humans. Farmers have retaliated against the elephants to protect their livelihood, and in some cases, they have been caught in snares that were intended to catch lions or other large predators.

Rangers at Amboseli National Park in Kenya

Oakland Zoo is Taking Action for Elephants

Project Support

Oakland Zoo is committed to protecting elephants in the wild with partners who combat and prevent poaching. The Zoo supports the mission of Amboseli Trust for Elephants and Big Life through an annual partnership grant that helps them combat ivory poaching. Big Life has a rapid response team that chases elephants out of farms, thereby reducing human-wildlife conflict.

Political Action

By partnering with World Conservation Society’s 96 Elephants campaign, Oakland Zoo helped change California legislation to close the loophole of ivory sales. Additionally, the Zoo’s work to bring awareness of circuses using bullhooks on elephants helped ban bullhooks in Oakland. Other cities across the United States followed suit, resulting in Ringling Bros. to retire all of its elephants in 2016, essentially ending the use of elephants in traveling circuses.

Leadership Training and Staff Expertise 

Oakland Zoo provides yearly professional training for field conservation partners and offers a myriad of staff skills and resources to enhance elephant conservation efforts.

Community Engagement

Oakland Zoo shares conservation issues facing elephants and empowering solutions to conserve them to the public through a variety of channels: Docents and Volunteers, Teen Wild Guides, Education programs, events, exhibits, campaigns, Keeper Talks, and media stories.

Eco-Travel with Impact

Oakland Zoo’s Eco-Travel to Kenya includes a special visit with Amboseli Trust for Elephants, which provides authentic assistance with hands-on work, engagement with the local community, and needed supplies. The eco-trip also includes visiting and supporting Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage with vital supplies and resources for elephants. Oakland Zoo offers travel participants a unique glimpse into the complexities of conservation issues and solutions to positively impact our partner projects, our travelers, and wildlife.

Forever Homes

Oakland Zoo is home to Osh the African elephant. The zoo leads the way in humane care of elephants by using a protected contact method, meaning an animal keeper and an elephant never share the same restricted space.

On July 9, 2024, Oakland Zoo announced that Osh (male, 30), the only remaining African elephant living at the Zoo, will be moving later this Fall to his new home at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee (The Sanctuary), an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited facility. Donna, the last female African elephant who lived at the Zoo, moved to the same location in September 2023. Click here to read more about why (and how) Osh is moving.

Amboseli Trust for Elephants (Kenya)

The Amboseli Trust for Elephants is the longest running African elephant field research project in the world, providing integral, comprehensive long-term research to create realistic solutions to help eliminate the ivory trade.

96 Elephants

96 Elephants brings together world citizens, partners, thought leaders, and change makers to leverage collective influence to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand for ivory.

Big Life Foundation

Big Life Foundation protects 1.6 million acres of the Amboseli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro ecosystem of East Africa through employing hundreds of local Maasai rangers and partnering with local communities to protect nature for the benefit of all.

The PAWS logo features an illustration of an elephant with a paw print behind it.

Performing Animal Wildlife Sanctuary

PAWS has been at the forefront of efforts to rescue and provide appropriate, humane sanctuary for animals who have been the victims of the exotic and performing animal trades, while investigating and documenting reports of abuse.

Save the Elephants

Save the Elephants mission is to secure a future for elephants and to sustain the beauty and ecological integrity of the places they live; to promote man’s delight in their intelligence and the diversity of their world, and to develop a tolerant relationship between the two species.

Reteti Elephant Sanctuary

The Reteti Elephant Sanctuary is Africa’s first community owned elephant sanctuary, situated in Northern Kenya, that solely focuses on the rescue and release of this majestic species.

Sheldrick Elephant Orphange

Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage is one of Africa’s oldest wildlife charities and a leading conservation organization embracing all measures that complement the conservation, preservation and protection of wildlife.

Wild Welfare

Wild Welfare is the first captive wild animal charity that is solely focused on improving welfare standards by uniting animal welfare NGOs and captive wildlife facilities, such as zoos, aquariums and sanctuaries, around the world.

Researching elephants in Amboseli National Park

Taking Action for Elephants: You Can Too!

  • TAKE the #EndTheTrade pledge to stop the poaching of elephants for their ivory and elephant abuse at so-called “sanctuaries.”
  • PASS on products made of ivory or other elephant parts.
  • CHOOSE not to support or visit businesses that offer elephant rides, performing elephants, or other opportunities to touch elephants.
  • ENTERTAIN HUMANELY: Choose circuses, movies, and other amusements that do not force elephants or any other animals to perform. Avoid businesses that offer elephant rides or other opportunities to touch elephants. Do not visit places that mistreat elephants by using bullhooks or chains. 
  • TRAVEL: Support Amboseli and Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage with an Oakland Zoo Eco-trip to Kenya.
  • DONATE to Oakland Zoo and work to conserve elephants.