Captive elephants often arouse questions.
Some individuals wonder why such majestic animals are put on display, or made to perform tasks which seem tedious and demeaning.
Others question whether elephants should be kept by man at all.
Keeping elephants in "the wild" would be the best possible thing to do if there were a little more "wild" left, and finding a space on the planet not directly impacted by humans will only get more difficult as time goes on. Elephants, as you can well imagine, require a great deal of space -- often more than even set-aside wilderness, such as a national park, can provide. These parks often border on agricultural land or other human environments, as well; elephants neither recognize property lines nor make very good neighbors. Also consider that farms, cities, or subdivisions might fall along migration routes, preventing interbreeding and resulting in an ultimately less viable wild population.
For most elephants, some degree of managed contact with humans is unfortunately inevitable.
A relationship with people, especially over the course of generations, brings about a new problem. Though elephants will never be "pets", and and domestication cannot diminish their fundamental power and nobility, animals conditioned to human caretakers can rarely be returned to a completely free existence in a wild state. In the right place, with enough space (which is, as stated, hard to come by), feral elephants will do an adequate job of attending to basic needs, finding food (though this may involve looking to the closest human at feeding time), and even reproducing. But breeding with an eye towards domestication and a lack of long-term survival skills, disease resistance, and established family groups work against the prospects for a full life. As elephants can live to be 70 or more, undertaking a relationship with them must really be seen as a lifetime commitment.
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