Elephant experts have studied Elephants in order to understand the choices Elephant makes by studying their movements. They have studied Elephant cognition and behaviour and have discovered, over many years, that Elephants are self-aware and empathetic they have the ability to think through problems. Elephant experts provide sound, interdisciplinary scientific information to aid decision making processes with regard to the management and protection of Elephants. Elephant experts unanimously agree that humans have to provide Elephants with the very resources that they need to be Elephants.

Historically, Elephants have been considered prime symbols of the power and triumph of the colonial empire, and were thus often the jewels of colonial animal collections across Europe.

Elephant Experts Supporting the Towards Freedom Project at the Johannesburg Zoo


“Zoos, have traditionally raided the wild to have wild animals on display those days should be over especially for species whose social and behavioural needs cannot be met in captivity, such as elephants and orcas. Zoos collectively are unable to maintain a sustainable breeding population of elephants. They will have to return again and again to take more elephants from the wild and inevitably, keep them in inadequate environments, where they will live inadequate lives and die before their time.” David Hancocks, former director of four major zoos; two in the United States of America and two in Australia.

Elephant experts and specialists from around the world have been publicly outspoken about the colonial keeping Elephants in captivity for years. As a result many Elephant exhibitions are closing down.

Thirteen Elephant Specialist Publish an Open Letter to Johannesburg Zoo and Johannesburg Mayor Asking that Lammie, the Elephant be Released

On the 29th January 2019 thirteen Elephant experts wrote an open letter to Mayor Herman Mashaba the Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg and to Mr Bryne Maduka the Managing Director of Johannesburg City Parks & Zoo.

“There is a global trend towards recognising that the specific and extensive needs of Elephants cannot be adequately met in captivity, and people are increasingly becoming aware that watching a lone, stressed or depressed Elephants in a very limited enclosure is neither educational nor entertaining. As well as addressing Lammie’s welfare in the best possible way, we believe that allowing her to be rehabilitated to a free-roaming social group would be an immense public relations win for the Johannesburg Zoo, the city and the country as a whole, highlighting an ethical approach to the management of Elephants.”

Short Biographies of the Elephant Scientists in Support of Freeing Lammie the Elephant at the Johannesburg Zoo

Professor Phyllis C. Lee

Professor Phyllis Lee is an Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Stirling, Professor Lee has also for many years been a Reader at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. She has carried out field research concentrating on animal behaviour since 1975.

Professor Lee is the Director of Science for the Amboseli Elephant Research Project which was started in Kenya, in Africa in 1972 by Dr Cynthia Moss. Professor Lee has been an active team member of the AERP since 1982.

Professor Lee has also collaborated with a number of researchers working on Forest and Asian Elephants as well as rimates from around the world. Professor Lee works on community conservation projects and human-wildlife interactions. Professor Phyllis Lee has also been actively involved with issues involving captive Elephant welfare in the United Kingdom.

Dr Cynthia Moss

Dr Cynthia Moss is an ethologist and conservationist, wildlife researcher and writer. Born and educated in the United States of America, Dr Moss, moved to Africa in 1968 where she has worked ever since.

Her involvement with Elephants started in Lake Mantra National Park in Tanzania where she worked with Iain Douglas-Hamilton on his pioneering Elephant study. In 1972, with Harvey Croze, she started the Amboseli Elephant Research Project in Kenya, which she continues to direct.

Her studies have concentrated on the the distribution, demography, population dynamics, social organisation and behaviour of the Amboseli Elephants. In 2001 she created the Amboseli Trust for Elephants in both Kenya and the USA. Her present activities include the overall direction of the ATE which includes research and monitoring training elephant researchers from African elephant range states, outreach to the Maasai community in the Amboseli, disseminating scientific results, networking with other Elephant scientists and conservation in Africa and Asia, and promoting public awareness by writing popular articles and books and by making films about Elephants.

Dr Joyce Poole

Dr Joyce Poole is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Elephant Voices, a research, conservation and advocacy organisation advancing the study of Elephant cognition, communication and social behaviour, and promoting the scientifically sound and ethical management and care of Elephants.

Dr Poole, is an Elephant ethologist/ecologist, and conservation biologist and is a world authority on Elephant reproductive, communicative and cognitive behaviour. Dr Poole has Ph.D. in Elephant behaviour from Cambridge University, and has studied the social behaviour and communication of Elephants for over 40 years, dedicating her life to their conservation and welfare.

Beginning her life’s endeavour in Amboseli, Kenya in 1975. She graduated from Smith College in 1979, holds a Cambridge University PhD and was a Princeton University post-doctoral fellow. Poole’s African elephant discoveries include: the phenomenon and patterns of musth; infrasonic and long-distance communication; vocal imitation; documentation of elephant vocal and gestural repertoires and of elephant cognitive abilities. Poole is a leading voice for the protection and well-being of elephants. Her documentation of the damage wrought on elephant societies by poaching was instrumental to the 1989 ban on international trade in ivory. She has been an expert witness in numerous elephant cruelty cases, is lead author of The Elephant Charter and an outspoken critic of the capture of elephants for captivity.

Dr Poole has published numerous popular and scientific articles, written two books, and participated in scores of elephant documentaries. Her contributions to science include the discovery of musth in male African elephants, the description of the contextual use of Elephant vocalisations, including those below the level of human hearing, and the discovery of vocal imitation.

Dr Marion Garai

Dr Marion Garai studied Zoology at the Universities of Zürich, Switzerland and Pretoria University, South Africa.

Dr Garai’s areas of specialisation and expertise are on the social behaviour of elephants in captivity particularly in zoos and Social and Stress Related Behaviours of translocated juvenile elephants, including orphans.
Dr Garai is a long standing member of the IUCN/SCC African Elephant Specialist Group. Was Vice Chair of the “Committee for the Training and Welfare of Elephants” . Dr Garai was the Founder and Chairperson of EMOA (Elephant Management & Owners Association). Since 2000 she has been a Trustee of Space for Elephants Foundation (SEF).

In 2012 she co-founded, and is the current Chairperson of the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group, South Africa (ESAG). Dr Garai is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Elephant Group (EEG), Germany and a Trustee of the Elephant Reintegration Trust (ERT)

Dr Keith Lindsay

Dr Keith Lindsay is a Canadian-British conservation biologist and environmental consultant based in Oxford, UK, with over 40 years’ professional experience. His expertise includes project design, management, and monitoring and evaluation in the fields of biodiversity research and conservation, community-based natural resource management, and policy and institutional analysis in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

Dr Lindsay’s life-long involvement with elephants began in 1977 with the Amboseli Elephant Research Project in southern Kenya, and MSc and PhD research projects on feeding ecology and population demography. He has remained a Collaborating Researcher with AERP, focusing on ecosystem change, elephant ranging, and human-elephant co-existence.

Dr Lindsay’s professional work has included elephant-focused assignments in southern Africa (Botswana, South Africa), Central Africa (regional elephant conservation), West Africa (Mali’s desert elephants) and East Africa (Kenya’s elephant strategy, Tanzania forest conservation). Broader concerns include the ivory trade under CITES (the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) and the welfare of captive elephants in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Dr Victoria Fishlock

Dr Victoria Fishlock joined the Amboseli Trust for Elephants in 2011 to study social disruption and recovery in Elephant families after the drought in 2009. Her work focuses on leadership and negotiation in the face of risk, as well as the very long-term social dynamics documented in the Amboseli. Prior to working in Kenya, Dr Fishlock studied gorillas and forest elephants in the Republic of Congo, where she earned her PhD under the supervision of Professor Phyllis Lee, examining the use of forest clearings as social arenas for Elephants. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Exeter.

Dr Kate Evans

Dr Kate Evans is the Founder and Director of Elephants for Africa. She is an award winning behavioural ecologist and conservation biologist who conducted her PhD The Behavioural Ecology and Movements of Adolescent Male African elephant in the Okavango Delta, Botswana through the University of Bristol. Her interest in male Elephants has expanded to focus on the social and ecological requirements of male Elephants in the context of a human landscape. Dr Evans is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Exeter, Honorary Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a member of the IUCN African elephant Specialist Group and the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group.

Dr Lucy Bates

Dr Lucy Bates graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (with Honors) in Experimental Psychology from Oriel College at the University of Oxford in 2000. She earned a Master of Science in Human Biology from the Institute of Biological Anthropology, University of Oxford in 2001 and earned a Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology from he University of St. Andrews in 2005. Dr Bates has spent much of her career studying the intelligence and social behaviour of large mammals, chimpanzees and Elephants in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa to try to help answer the question of what makes humans different. Dr Bates has continued her research into Elephant behaviour at the University of Sussex and as a faculty member at the University of Portsmouth. Dr Bates volunteers for the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group of South Africa. ESAG uses evidence based knowledge to promote the best practise in Elephant management and conservation in South Africa and beyond.

Dr Michelle Henley

Dr Michelle Henley is the Director, Co-Founder and Principal Researcher of Elephants Alive. Dr Henley has been studying Elephants for 25 years. She works closely with scientists, private landowners, subsistence farmers and politicians. Dr Henley received her PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, is a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Applied Behavioural Ecology and Environmental Research Unit of the University of South Africa, Trustee of the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group of South Africa and Elephants for Africa. She is an invited member for the Species Survival Commission of the IUCN.

Dr Audrey Delsink

Dr Audrey Delsink is the Executive Director of the Humane Society International/Africa. Dr Delshink has acted as the Field Director for the world-renown African elephant Immunocontraception Program since 2000. She has been actively involved in both national, provincial and private Elephant management in South Africa. Dr Delsink has helped to shape policy and legislation regarding wild African elephants, most notably through the gazetting of the Norms and Standards of Elephant Management in South Africa (2008). She completed her MSc Biology on Immunocontraception of African elephants (University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa).

Dr Yolanda Pretorius

Dr Yolanda Pretorius has a BSc(Hons) Wildlife Management from the University of Pretoria. Her thesis was on feed supplement for African elephant on a fenced game reserve. She has an MSc in Biology on stress in African elephants in fenced game reserves from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and a PhD in Ecology with thesis on small scale foraging by large African herbivores from Wageningen University, the Netherlands.

From 2013 to 2017 she was a Lecturer in Wildlife ecology and management at the Centre for Wildlife Management, University of Pretoria with research program on re-integration of captive elephant into the wild and the effects of tourism and management on elephant behaviour in fenced reserves.

Dr Yolanda Pretorius was the Manager: Natural Resource Management Qualifications (Higher Education Training Program) at the Southern African Wildlife College from June 2017 until April 2022. The Vice Chairperson of the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group, South Africa and Dr Pretorius was a Trustee of the Elephant Reintegration Trust (ERT).

Dr Yolanda Pretorius is the Founder and Director of the Baramin School in Limpopo, South Africa.

Antoinette van der Water

As the director of Bring the Elephant Home Foundation, Antoinette van der Water has over 15 years of experience in community-based elephant conservation.

She holds a Master’s in Conservation Biology at Miami University, with dissertations on human-elephant conflicts, and the effectiveness of beehive fences as an elephant deterrence measure. In 2018, she started a position as a PhD researcher at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on the social dimensions of human-elephant coexistence in Africa.

Antoinette won three conservation awards, is a co-author of the book “The Great Elephant Escape”, featured in several documentaries and is a trustee of the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group.

Brett Mitchell

Brett Mitchell has been working, handling & training elephants for the past 20 years, managing and operating businesses in the safari industry, specifically elephant back safaris.. He ran Pilansberg Elephant Back Safaris for 12 years. He is an elephant expert specialising in captive elephants (handling & training) and the re- integration of captive elephants into a wild system. Brett has developed a successful re-integration model for captive elephants and has to-date re-integrated over 17 captive elephants back into wild systems. He is currently the Chairperson of the Elephant Reintegration Trust since 2016.