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, traveling and stationary roadside circuses, sham sanctuaries and so-called “petting zoos.” The captive elephants typically are quite poorly treated and cared for, housed and transported in deplorable conditions, prone to developing chronic serious health issues. and left to languish silently in deep emotional despair and relentless physical agony. And, owing to the neglect, trauma and abuse to which they are subjected, are doomed to a substantially shorter life expectancy than elephants in the wild.
The elephants are most often separated and taken from their mothers as babies, shipped as freight across the world in terror and enslaved in a desolate existence without other elephants or other sources of comfort contact, often for the duration of their abbreviated lives. It's beyond bleak, and looks like this: Elephant Holding Her Trunk For Comfort. 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 is now well-established and obvious, are complex, highly-intelligent, and intensely emotional and social beings. They are extraordinary, and what we are doing to them is fully despicable.
To date ADP has been in involved in three projects seeking release of isolated captive elephants, with the goal of placing them in one of two accredited U.S. elephant sanctuaries, California’s Performing Animal Welfare Sanctuary (“PAWS”) and The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee (“EST”).
Our initial work on this front was directed to Nosey the Elephant, who for more than three decades was confined and exhibited under awful conditions and subjected to an extended pattern of inhumane treatment and egregious regulatory violations while housed in Florida and in the course of grueling travel throughout the country. ADP became involved when it was asked by In Defense of Animals ("IDA") and Save Nosey Now ("SNN") to assist in their work on Nosey's behalf. Thanks to the tireless efforts of all of those who participated, the Alabama District Attorney seized Nosey while in the state, placed her in EST and brought charges against her owners. After a bench trial, the Court declined to return Nosey, who nows lives in peace at EST.
In addition to providing general litigation guidance to IDA and SNN, ADP petitioned the USDA to decline to renew Nosey's owner's permit to exhibit animals. Unfortunately - and incredibly - the USDA has renewed the owner's license (it is unknown whether it includes Nosey specifically), which only underscores the importance of fighting on all captive elephants' behalf, and the obstacles presented.
ADP is currently involved in a similar project for Asha, an elephant housed at Natural Bridge Zoo (“NBZ”) in Virginia. ADP, together with IDA, SNN, One World Conservation and Anna Katogyritti of Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots Program (Greece), filed on behalf of three residents a complaint with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (“DGIF”), seeking to have Asha seized and placed at PAWS or EST. ADP submitted the complaint to DGIF and local law enforcement on March 26, 2018, along with extensive evidence of NBZ’s deplorable record of USDA and other violations and a highly compelling preliminary assessment by IDA's Toni Frohoff, Ph.D., a leading wildlife behavioral scientist, specializing in elephants and other mammals in captivity and in the wild.
ADP is also joining with IDA in pursuing release for Happy, a 44 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 to its well-respected 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants 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 in similarly awful circumstances around the country.