How Much Does An Elephant Cost?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have an elephant for a pet? There are many exotic animals that seem like they would make fun pets. Even though they are huge, elephants have to be at the top of that list. They are famous for their memories, and they have great dispositions, you could ride them anywhere. In many ancient cultures, the possession of an elephant was a status symbol. But exactly how much would it cost to own an elephant?

How much does an elephant cost? There is no exact number because elephants are not regularly bought and sold. Elephants are considered an endangered species due to years of unchecked ivory trade. In the few documented instances of elephants being sold, they have gone for anywhere from $12,000 to $60,000 an animal depending on age. But the cost doesn’t stop there. You still have to provide lodging, which PAWS estimates at around $10 million to build, and feeding, which can cost up to $70,000 a year for a healthy animal.

The buying, selling, or transfer of elephants is a controversial topic in today’s global society. It goes beyond a simple price tag. Here are some things to realize about what it means to own an elephant…

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How Much Is It to Buy an Elephant? They’re not Cheap

Due to years of storied ivory poaching, international laws have been put in place to protect elephants. These laws have made it hard to buy and sell elephants by significantly increasing their price and making it hard to move them from place to place.

This is creating some problems between countries that have native elephant populations and animal rights activists. Countries like Zimbabwe and Swaziland have claimed over the last ten years that elephant populations are getting too big and starting to override other animal populations, including human villages and cities.

These countries have claimed that they need to sell elephants or they will be forced to kill off parts of the population. Elephant defenders feel it is not good for the elephants to be taken out of their natural environments, nor matter what the countries claim.

How Much Do Zoos Pay for Elephants?

There have been a few documented sales of elephants over the last ten years, even though people have protested. Between 2012 and 2018, Zimbabwe sold 93 elephants to China and four to Dubai.

The prices of the elephants ranged from $13,500 to $41,000 depending on their age. In 2017, Vietnam sold 16 elephants to Dubai for $25,000 to $30,000 per elephant.

In 2015, Swaziland sold 18 elephants for a total of $133,000 to three United States zoos.

Can You Have a Pet Elephant In the US?

There is, of course, the fact that owning an elephant in most states is illegal unless you own a conservation center, zoo, or circus. Check the laws in your state to see if it is even allowed. It doesn’t matter how much the elephant costs if you aren’t allowed to own it in the first place.

Adopt An Elephant

If you are looking to own an elephant, as you can see from the numbers above, the cost is much too high for one average individual to purchase. That does not mean that you are out of luck if you are looking to help elephant populations worldwide. There are multiple places where one can adopt an elephant online for very reasonable costs.

  • World Wild Life Foundation: The WWF works worldwide to protect animals and the natural resources they need. Monthly gifts that they call symbolic adoptions help give them a steady stream of income to complete the needed work to help the animals. They offer adoption kits that range in price from $25 to $225. You get various gifts and pieces of information depending on your level of participation.
  • Fort Worth Zoo: Help the Forth Worth zoo take care of the elephants they take care of by adopting baby elephants. You get an animal fact sheet, a stuffed elephant, along with a personalized adoption certificate. If you live close by, you also get the pleasure fo visiting the elephant you are helping out.

The cost of owning an elephant is ridiculously high. So much so, it is not really possible for an average individual to swing. It could cost up to $40,000 to purchase. The cost of feeding an elephant alone will cost you $70,000 a year, more than most will spend on their mortgage. But the real hindrance to purchasing an elephant isn’t the price, it’s being able to provide the social interaction and vast environment that will keep the elephant both physically and mentally sound.

Even most zoos, including biggies like the Bronx Zoo, have decided that it is not cost-effective nor beneficial to the animals to purchase an elephant.

Elephants Are Sensitive Creatures

It has become know that elephants have a lot of the same psychological conditions as humans. Elephants are known to have self-recognition, social awareness, and language which leaves them susceptible to the same forms of depression that humans develop in isolation. This means caging an elephant or taking them away from their pack to be your pet will cause psychological damage to the animal.

Elephants rely on their social order to prevent stress and maintain their mental health. Removing them from this social order can lead to death. The New York Times has reported that there is an alarmingly high number of stillbirths and reproductive disorders in pregnant captive elephants that do not appear at all in wild elephants.


That being said, it is of vital importance that a proper elephant habitat is created if one is to move an elephant. That environment needs to include…

  • Hills
  • Native African or Asian Trees
  • Grass
  • Rocks
  • Lakes, Ponds, or Pools
  • Large Enough For Multiple Elephants
  • Fencing
  • Barns

Creating such a space has cost up to $10 million. Many zoos have discontinued their elephant exhibitions because the cost of creating and maintaining such environments is too steep.


This sensitivity can also cause issues traveling. Taking an elephant out of their normal living situation and transporting them can cause severe mental and psychological damage. It is suggested that elephants be trailer trained before moving them. To do so, you would need to bring in an expert and possibly months of training until the elephant is fit to move.

Once moved, a veterinarian should be present 24 hours a day to monitor the elephant’s acclimation to its new environment.

This can all cost between $15,000 to $50,000 depending on how long it takes to train the elephant, how far you plan on moving it, and how fast it acclimates to the new environment.

How Much Does an Elephant Eat in a Day?

Many people wonder The average elephant will grow to be 15,000 pounds. It takes an exorbitant amount of food to feed a 15,000-pound creature. Adult elephants usually eat between 250-300 lbs of vegetation but can eat up to 600 lbs. It can cost up to $70,000 a year to provide this much vegetation for one elephant.

Along with eating comes waste. Elephants have an extremely inefficient digestive system. They digest less than 50% of what they eat. If you combine this with the large amounts that they eat, you are left with a lot of elephant manure. On average an elephant will leave 220-250 lbs of manure a day or 85,000 lbs a year. This is either going to be labor-intensive or extremely costly to remove.