Weeping Elephant Project

Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals
Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals


"The Indian elephant is known sometimes to weep."

Sir E. Tennent

The great majority of our matters come to us through existing and new clients. In those instances, ADP acts in its capacity as the attorneys representing our client’s interests, which is the core of ADP’s work.

On a very limited basis, we also pursue special projects and causes in our capacity as advocates, rather than as attorneys for a client. We may do this on our own or in collaboration with other animal protection organizations.

As an example, ADP co-founder David Ebert has had a long-standing personal interest in the treatment of elephants in the U.S. and, specifically, the plight of elephants held in captivity.

Typically the captive elephants are quite poorly treated and cared for, housed and transported in deplorable conditions, prone to developing chronic health issues, and left to languish in deep emotional despair and relentless physical agony. This neglect, trauma, and abuse shortens their life expectancy substantially compared to elephants in the wild, which, under the circumstances, may stand as a stroke of unintended mercy.

These elephants are most often separated and taken from their mothers as babies, shipped in terror across the world as freight, and enslaved in a desolate existence with no other elephants or sources of comfort contact, often for the duration of their abbreviated lives. Baby elephants may be "trained" into compliance through a process known as “the crush,” which can include being restrained and beaten for several weeks.

These circumstances are particularly devastating for elephants, who, as we now know, are complex, intelligent, and intensely emotional and social beings. That we do this is an atrocity.

David Ebert 2019

Animal Defense Partnership has engaged in various projects seeking to release isolated captive elephants and place them in accredited elephant sanctuaries, either in California’s Performing Animal Welfare Sanctuary or Tennessee's The Elephant Sanctuary.


Our first efforts were on behalf of Nosey, who for more than three decades was confined and exhibited under awful conditions and subjected to inhumane treatment and egregious regulatory violations while housed in Florida and traveling throughout the country.  In Defense of Animals (IDA) and Free All Captive Elephants (FACE) approached ADP to help their campaign to release Nosey. Thanks to the tireless work of all the organizations, the Alabama District Attorney seized Nosey while she was in the state, placed her in Tennessee’s The Elephant Sanctuary, and brought charges against her owner. After a bench trial, the court declined to return Nosey, who now lives at the sanctuary in peace.


ADP, through its Weeping Elephant Project, has filed an action on behalf of In Defense of Animals (IDA) against the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to compel production of records maintained for the Bronx Zoo's captive elephants.ADP filed a Freedom of Information Law request on IDA's behalf in February 2019 to obtain the medical records for Happy and Patty, two elephants who are each held separately in solitary confinement at the Bronx Zoo, as well as Maxine, who was euthanized in late 2018. The DCLA and WCS failed to comply with ADP's requests, leaving us with no choice but to pursue this lawsuit.


ADP is involved in a similar effort for Asha, an elephant housed at Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia. Together with IDA, FACE, One World Conservation, and Anna Katogyritti of Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots Program, ADP filed a complaint with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), seeking to have Asha seized and placed in an accredited sanctuary. The complaint was submitted to the Virginia DGIF and local law enforcement, along with extensive evidence of the zoo’s deplorable record of violations and a compelling preliminary assessment by Toni Frohoff, Ph.D., a leading wildlife behavioral scientist with IDA who specializes in elephants and other mammals in captivity and in the wild. Our efforts on this front are on-going.

Jo-Anne McArthur / Born Free Foundation / We Animals Media
Asian elephant at a zoo.

This heart-wrenching video is used with permission of Lucy (last name withheld), who captured this footage.
Baby captive circus elephant attempts to soothe herself by sucking on her trunk - Garden Bros. Circus