Elephants are highly intelligent, social, sentient animals. In the wild, they spend their lives with their maternal herd community and females share upbringing and parental duties. They communicate with each other and demonstrate affection through a wide variety of sounds and trunk movements. They have no natural enemies and have even been observed exhibiting altruistic behavior. Elephants are known for their exceptional memories. They forge life-long bonds that do not diminish over time or with separation. They love and they grieve. They even mourn their dead.

Elephants are part of our global heritage and our story. Children all over the world learn that “E is for Elephant.” Yet at the current rate of decline, elephants will be extinct in the wild in the lifetimes of today’s kindergartners.

These amazing animals are under a worldwide threat from increasing loss of habitat, unceasing illegal poaching, and exploitation by entertainment and tourism industries. Humans endanger elephants through direct action (poaching, trophy hunting, ivory trade, etc.) and indirect (agriculture, industrial development, and habitat destruction). We must act now to save these magnificent animals, the planet, and ourselves.

Hard Facts
  • Worldwide, an elephant is killed every 15 minutes
  • In Africa, approximately 96 elephants are killed every day for their ivory
  • An estimated 35,000 African elephants were killed every year from 2010 to 2013
  • The population of African elephants has dropped from over twenty million in 1890 to fewer than 450,000 today
  • Since 1989, African elephants have been listed as endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
  • Due to human/elephant conflicts, Asian elephants are critically endangered with only 20,000–25,000 left in the wild.**
  • The United States is the second largest market for ivory, traded through auction houses, antique shops, shops in large cities, and online sales
  • Countries in Asia remain the biggest market for ivory where it is viewed as a high status symbol
What You Can Do Now
  • Never buy or sell ivory, no matter its age. All ivory is “blood Ivory.” Every piece—no matter how old or small—represents unspeakable brutality, terror, and grief.
  • Never attend circuses or shows that use elephants. Elephants who perform have been force-trained as babies using fear and pain.
  • Never patronize zoos where elephants do not have adequate space to roam and the company of other elephants in a temperate climate.
  • Never ride an elephant. Their spines are spiky and fragile and the training to break them is brutal.
MFE Mission Statement

Massachusetts for Elephants is dedicated to educating people about the devastating perils facing elephant populations in Africa and Asia. We advocate for elephant species protection, habitat conservation, and the sustainable co-existence of humans and non-humans worldwide. This includes helping to improve the wellbeing and future of elephants forced to entertain or perform for humans—and ending those practices wherever possible.

Now more than ever, it’s time to build better protections for elephants and their habitats and to improve policies to prohibit the trade of ivory. Massachusetts for Elephants advocates for state and local legislation, coordinates fundraising efforts, and sponsors events such as the annual 5K Boston Run for the Elephants. We work with like-minded nonprofit organizations trying to save elephants from abuse and habitat loss.

We want to inspire individuals to understand and take action to save elephants. We focus education efforts on three key areas: 1) the vital importance of elephants to the ecosystems where they live, 2) information about the threats to elephant survival and wellbeing, and 3) actions people can take to mitigate these threats.


Elephants are a keystone species, essential to the sustainability of the environments where they live. Many animals and plants depend on elephants for their own survival. The seeds of numerous plants and trees are dispersed and germinated by elephants. Elephants fell trees as they migrated and fed, making the African savannah possible. The imprints of their footprint in the soil captures water relied on by other species. Their dung is nutrient rich and helps support birds, insects, and other animals. Elephants are magnificent on their own and vital to the viability of entire ecosystems.


Elephants face many human causes and create threats to their existence. According to the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, these have decimated elephant populations in Africa by an alarming 70% since 1979. These threats include:

  • Poaching for Ivory
  • Trophy Hunting
  • Wild Animal Enslavement/Entertainment
  • Human & Elephant Confrontations
  • Rapidly Dwindling Habitats
  • Global Warming

Most illegal ivory available in the world today comes from African elephants. Male Asian elephants also face the threat of poaching for their tusks. And the increasing trade in elephant skin used for jewelry threatens all male and female elephants.

The ivory trade funds terrorist organizations, militias, and criminal cartels. It destabilizes Africa and negatively affects the entire world. Massachusetts is reported to have a “brisk” ivory trade, in part because of our many antiques shops and auctions.

Actions You Can Take

MFE provides information and links to efforts working on the ground in Africa and Asia, as well as locally in Massachusetts. These resources help you take effective action by contacting government officials and providing financial support to organizations aligned with saving elephants. MFE is also active with such events as the Boston Run for Elephants. We seek to connect elephant lovers with each other to amplify and inspire our collective impact in saving elephants.

Spread the word:

  • Educate your relatives, friends, co-workers, and local businesses about elephants in peril
  • Encourage them to take a stand against circuses, traveling shows, fairs, and exotic animal shows
  • Support legislation that bans the use of exotic animals (or any animal) in traveling shows, etc.
  • Support legislation to ban the use of the bull hook and chains on elephants
  • Support local ban—start one if there is not one already in place!
    Adopt/foster an elephant from refuges/sanctuaries
Action in Massachusetts

Taking action in Massachusetts can make a difference. We encourage you to petition your State Senator and State

Representative to enact two pending pieces of legislation: Senate Bill S.496/ House Bill H.772 to prohibit the sale of ivory and rhino horn in Massachusetts; and Senate Bill S.2028/House Bill H.2934 to ban the use of elephants and exotic animals in traveling exhibits and shows.

Ivory Sales in MA
Ivory sales are still legal in Massachusetts, despite being banned internationally in 1989 and nationally in 2016. A 2017 report on the ivory market highlighted the Boston area because of its many antique stores and markets. The Nantucket lightship basket industry continues to use elephant tusks for their ‘scrimshaw’ decorations, because the use of whalebone is banned. Antique dealers and scrimshaw carvers lobby MA State representatives to keep the ivory trade alive.

Circuses and Traveling Shows in MA
Six states, including neighboring New York and Rhode Island, have prohibited the use of elephants and exotic animals in circuses and traveling shows. Massachusetts has yet to pass any statewide legislation. However, several municipalities have taken measures to keep circuses and traveling shows that feature exotic animals from performing. They include: Braintree, Cambridge, Menden, Pittsfield, Plymouth, Provincetown, Quincy, Revere, Somerville, Topsfield, and Weymouth.

Buelah, Karen, and Minnie
R.W. Commerford and Sons is a circus and traveling show company operating in Massachusetts under the name, Commerford Zoo. It is nationally known for three of its elephants: Buelah, Karen, and Minnie. For several years, the Non-human Rights Project has been advocating for their release to one of the accredited elephant sanctuaries in the U.S. Buelah and Karen have since died. Efforts on behalf of Minnie continue.

NOTE: MFE is not a lobbying organization. We share legislation and regulatory information to inspire you to act. However, local organizations that do engage in advocacy on behalf of animals include:

Massachusetts Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA)

Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL)


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