Asha, now known as Beautiful, is an elephant at Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia that had her freedom taken away from her at a young age. In Defense of Animals is working to try to get Beautiful to an accredited elephant sanctuary so that she can live out the rest of her life in a calm and loving environment with other elephants.

Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia is home to many animals that are subject to abuse and harm that can be caused by direct interactions with paying customers. The zoo has undergone many investigations and has been accused of neglect, specifically surrounding Beautiful.

Source: The Humane Society of the United States/Youtube

Beautiful has lived in a small enclosure, has insufficient medical care, and endured Virginia’s severe winters. The zoo uses painful bullhooks to hit Beautiful with and even changed her name from Asha to Beautiful, likely to try to hide her tragic past. She has been forced to give rides to visitors for decades. In other words, to the zoo, she is just a way for them to make money.

Zoo captivity has been proven to damage elephants’ brains and cause them immense physical and emotional pain. Bob Jacobs, Ph.D., Professor of Neuroscience at Colorado College, conducted a study about the consequences of captivity on elephants and summarized it as,

“Zoo captivity damages elephant brains. There’s a vast gap between the rich environment nature provides for elephants’ thoughtful brains versus zoo captivity, which is impoverished and robs elephants of their social, mental, and neural needs. Decades of neuroscience research show that an impoverished brain is a damaged brain. Whether it is the 10 Worst Zoos or the ten best, all zoos are detrimental to elephants’ brains and cause physical and mental suffering.”

Last year, the Zoo’s owner, Karl Mogensen, agreed to pay a large fine for charges that were brought against him for six violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Unfortunately, he did not learn his lesson and proved that he doesn’t care about Beautiful or any of the other animal’s welfare in his zoo. He was cited again this year for failing to have Beautiful ‘under control’ while she was forced to give customers rides on her back. 

Source: The Dodo/Youtube

As humans, we have no right to imprison these animals. Animals should not ever be held captive and used to make a profit. Elephants are sentient beings, and they are sensitive, emotional, and highly intelligent. They deserve to be in the wild where they are meant to be, and we need to put an end to all zoos that hold animals captive to make a quick buck off of the public.

Check out In Defense of Animals resources for what you can do to help Asha. While you’re at it, sign this petition to demand that the Natural Bridge Zoo send Asha to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee! Also, please sign this petition to close down Natural Bridge Zoo, which has been proven to be cruel to animals!

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