Elephants are intelligent and highly social animals. They can use tools, cooperate to solve problems and they can even communicate in a language of over 70 distinct sounds. In nature, elephants spend their entire lives with their families, sometimes in herds of up to 100 elephants. Despite the social nature of elephants, they are often held in captivity in zoos and the entertainment industry in complete isolation, all for the sake of entertainment. Even worse is that each of these elephants were captured as very young calves, stolen from their families, and then locked up in cages for the rest of their lives.
These incredible beings will never get to experience the wonders of life in the wild. Captive environments can never replicate nature. With limited space and lack of stimulation, elephants can become extremely bored. In fact, almost 85 percent of elephants in American zoos, including some mentioned below show neurotic behaviors, such as head bobbing and swaying, as a result of life in captivity. These animals need interaction with other elephants and the proper environment to stay healthy and happy. Their family bonds are some of the strongest in nature, which is why it’s even more clear that that elephants don’t belong in captivity. Here are six elephants that prove it:
In 1984, Bubbles came to the T.I.G.E.R.S. facility after being orphaned as a baby by ivory poachers. She was trained and put to work in movies, such as Ace Ventura II and currently lives at the Myrtle Beach Safari location. Bubbles hasn’t seen another elephant in more than 30 years. She’s been living alone at this roadside zoo in North Carolina where she is exploited for TV spots and viral videos. If that’s not bad enough, T.I.G.E.R.S also offer visitors the opportunity to swim with Bubbles the elephant. Numerous pictures posted on their Facebook page show Bubbles covered with people using her like a swimming raft. Sign this petition urging her captors to send Bubbles to a reputable sanctuary.
2. Anna Louise
Snatched from her family in Zimbabwe, Anna Louise, a 34-year-old African elephant, has been moved around from zoo to zoo since 1988. Today, she serves as an entertainer with the Kelly Miller Circus. Forced to perform silly tricks like dancing and carrying a tambourine in her trunk, Anna Louise is a slave to the entertainment industry. While dancing, Anna Louise is forced to perform on the stage with camels, zebras, tigers, dogs, ponies, and a llama, where most of them are dressed up in ridiculous costumes and decorative pieces. But behind the seemingly glitzy display, Anna Louise faces constant abuse as bullhooks, which are used to jab the elephants into desired positions, are a regular form of training.
“Every elephant under the big top has been beaten into complacency through ‘severe training sessions,’” says Matt Rossell, campaigns director of Animal Defenders International. You can join other activists in a petition to send Anna Louise to a sanctuary here.
More than 30 years ago, 62 wild baby elephants watched in horror as their mothers, sisters, aunts, and cousins were violently slaughtered by the government of Zimbabwe in a bid to make room for human development. The orphaned babies were rounded up and then sent to the U.S. to be sold off to zoos and circuses. Nosey is the one of these elephants and to this day, she is towed around the country to perform at fairs and flea markets. Since 1997, Nosey has been beaten, chained, and denied of veterinary care. Experts say poor Nosey is suffering from arthritis and lameness, related to her captivity. In addition, she hasn’t made contact with another elephant. You can sign this petition to demand that she be sent to a sanctuary.
Imported into the U.S in 1984 on the same shipment as Nosey, Laura the Africa elephant has been forced to give rides at fairs, festivals, parties and school events for many years. To make things worse, Buster – an elephant with whom she was imported and made to breed with – died several years ago, leaving Laura completely alone. Companionship is essential for the mental well being of any elephant. In the wild, Laura would spend the majority of her day socializing with other elephants.
At the Ivory Haven Farms in Fremont, Michigan, where she currently lives, Laura is denied of everything natural to her. She’s treated more like a pet than a wild animal. Her owner, Chuck Walters, says he does school visits to teach young people about elephant behavior and sometimes, Laura comes along with him. She will often play the harmonica to give an example of how elephants blow through their trunk or jiggle a tambourine using her tail to show how elephants swat flies in the wild. According to Walters, these are “natural behaviors, turned into tricks.“
If she does what she’s told, it won’t go unnoticed because he’ll give her a treat – jelly beans, completely unnatural to an elephant’s diet. Help persuade her captors to send her to a sanctuary by signing this petition.
Kidnapped from the wild in Thailand, a young elephant named Happy was sent to the Bronx Zoo in 1977 with her companion Grumpy. When Grumpy passed away, 25 years later, the zoo replaced him with Sammie, another elephant companion for Happy. After four years, Sammie was euthanized due to an illness, and he wasn’t replaced. So for the last ten years, Happy has been completely alone. With limited space and no companions, elephants tend manifest neurotic behaviors. Former zookeepers say have observed Happy swaying and bobbing on a number of occasions. In addition to her mental stability, zookeepers recognize that Happy has also suffered from a number of injuries and illnesses.
In the wild, Happy would be surrounded by her family at all times and free to roam the forests for miles every day and search for food. Sadly, this seems light years away from the life she’s living at the Bronx Zoo. You can speak up for Happy by signing this petition, urging her captors to retire her to a sanctuary.
Lucky the elephant has lived in confinement for 54 years! Nearly all of those years, she has been all alone. She had a glimpse of hope for a better life when a legal team stepped in to defend her freedom in 2015, but the San Antonio Zoo refuses to release her to a sanctuary. Sadly, Lucky has anything but good fortune. For the past three years, she has been in solitary confinement in a tiny enclosure with no shelter from the sun at the San Antonio Zoo, where she is regularly seen swaying and rocking – neurotic behaviors that are typical of elephants in captivity. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is trying to win Lucky’s freedom from her cell so that she can be released to a sanctuary. You can learn more about the efforts to help Lucky here.
What You Can do to Help Captive Elephants
We all have the opportunity to help captive elephants with our actions. By simply refusing to attend any attraction featuring an elephant, you can help lower the demand for their display and help make elephant entertainment a thing of the past! Life in shackles and isolation is no life at all for an elephant. Share this article and help spread the word that no elephant belongs in captivity!
Image source: T.I.G.E.R.S