The Weeping Elephant Project

Photograph courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals
Photograph courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

"The Indian elephant is known sometimes to weep. Sir E. Tennent, in describing these which he saw captured and bound in Ceylon, says, some 'lay motionless on the ground, with no other indication of suffering than the tears which suffused their eyes and flowed incessantly'."

--Charles Darwin, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals

“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. 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. 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. That we do this is an atrocity.

The 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.