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The AZA standards for Elephant Care and Management states: 

Elephant training terminology and description of specific behaviors are outlined in the AZA School Course Principles of Elephant Management (PEM).  Trained behaviors should allow the elephant staff access to the animal in order to accomplish all necessary animal care and management procedures and permit institutional consistency.  The PEM recommended list of commands and their corresponding behaviors are ones that every elephant and elephant handler must know so that basic husbandry and veterinary practices can be accomplished.

Training enriches the lives of animals, including elephants. People have been training elephants for centuries, but in the last 10-15 years there have been dramatic improvements in training practice and knowledge of training theory.  It is the responsibility of today’s elephant handlers to learn the accepted/recommended practices and to pass this skill on to subsequent generations of handlers.

Responsible elephant management provides a quality-training program as part of daily elephant care.  The training of specific behaviors ensures both physical and mental stimulation that may enhance the animal’s well being.  In effective training programs, elephants are willing participants in the training process.  In fact, elephants and handlers alike seem to enjoy the training sessions.  

Here are a few reasons why it’s important to train elephants: 

Training can enhance elephant welfare by improving daily elephant care and increasing safety for both animals and keepers. Training facilitates important elephant care and management procedures such as bathing, shifting on/off exhibit, stepping onto a scale for routine weight monitoring, and presenting feet for foot care.

blood draw

Training may lower stress during medical assessment and treatment such as blood collection, voluntarily treatment of minor injuries and acceptance of oral medications, vaccinations or injections of needed medications and standing calmly for ultrasound examinations. Through effective training, elephants actually cooperate in their own health care.

Training sessions can be integrated into regular public education programs that can engage and educate visitors about the complexity of elephant care and welfare.

More on Elephant Training

For elephant training to be as successful as possible, the elephant handler must be familiar with training theory, the advantages and disadvantages of various tools and methods, and the terminology associated with training. For a more in-depth discussion of elephant training, refer to:

Elephant Husbandry Resource Guide

Elephant Husbandry Resource Guide

Training Behaviors

Principles of Elephant Management Course

Training Resources



Professional Members
Elephant Information
Updated: November 22, 2011