Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Elephant Trails Education Program

The Elephant Trails education program features the National Zoo’s Asian elephants as ambassadors for their species and inspires the public to join efforts to save them.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo engages a diverse audience  in conservation efforts, through a variety of mediums and channels. Many people will never encounter an elephant in the wild. At the National Zoo, however, visitors can learn about wild elephants and about the individual elephants they are visiting.

The Zoo’s herd puts faces on the abstract concept of conservation and inspires visitors to celebrate, protect, and conserve some of the most remarkable creatures on Earth. Elephants need our help more than ever; and Elephant Trails celebrates these complex and fascinating animals, and inspires a worldwide mission to help save them from extinction.


Graphic and interactive exhibits, in addition to docents, keepers and scientists educate visitors about the status of elephants and move them to action.

  • Visitors, whether visiting in person or via a webcam, can immerse themselves in the elephants’ lives at the Zoo. They can observe real live enormous elephants behaving naturally.
  • Using colors, textures and designs from Asian cultures in which elephants belong, the exhibits tell stories about the diverse relationships among people, elephants and habitats.
  • Captivating interactions with staff and interactive exhibits reinforce the message that elephants are amazing animals—large, powerful, and remarkably intelligent creatures with intricate social lives.
  • Visitors can learn about what National Zoo scientists are doing to help save elephants in zoos and in the wild. Zoogoers leave with the knowledge that elephants need their support—and the help of everyone else—to survive.
  • Classes, lectures and films offer the general public opportunities to learn about Zoo research and efforts to help Asian elephants survive and thrive.
  • Online opportunities offer web visitors the opportunity to see how our scientists are contributing to the conservation of Asian elephants and their habitats. Scientists provide regular updates and insights on the Zoo’s website about their experiences in the field.
  • The Zoo’s app also provides a window into the elephants’ daily lives at the Zoo. It includes a video of Shanthi playing the harmonica – an enriching activity she does on her own outside of training and other scheduled enrichment activities.