The ADP Weeping Elephant Project
“The keeper of the Indian elephants positively asserts that he has several times seen tears rolling down the face of the old female, when distressed by the removal of the young ones.” Charles Darwin, The Zoological Gardens
There are solitary elephants suffering in misery all over the country in zoos, circuses, sham sanctuaries, and “petting zoos.” 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. The neglect, trauma, and abuse they sustain also shortens their life expectancy substantially compared to elephants in the wild.
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. Their solitude is heartbreaking, and can look like this: Elephant Holding Her Trunk For Comfort.
These circumstances are particularly devastating for elephants, who, as we now know, are complex, intelligent, and intensely emotional and social beings. The ways in which we treat these extraordinary animals are despicable.
The Animal Defense Partnership has engaged in three 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 Save Nosey Now (SNN) 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.
Beyond the litigation support for Nosey’s specific case, ADP petitioned the USDA to decline to renew her owner's permit to exhibit animals. Sadly, and incredibly, the USDA renewed the license, which underscores the difficulties and importance of fighting for all captive elephants.
ADP is now involved in a similar effort for Asha, an elephant housed at Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia. Together with IDA, SNN, 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 on March 26, 2018, 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.
ADP has also joined with IDA to pursue release for Happy, a forty-four-year-old female elephant housed at the Bronx Zoo. For close to a decade, Happy has lived alone, separated from the zoo’s two other elephants. Happy was captured as a baby, likely from Thailand, in the early 1970s, along with six other calves, possibly from the same herd. The seven elephants were shipped to the United States and dispersed among various zoos and circuses, with Happy ending up in the Bronx in 1977. IDA has named the Bronx Zoo on its well-respected 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants list for three years in a row, largely based on Happy’s isolation.
We are expanding this program and will continue to collaborate with these and other organizations and advocates to extricate elephants from similarly awful circumstances around the country.