In an ideal world, Mo Mo the elephant would be roaming the Asian tropical forests, surrounded by her herd and friends. She’d be standing on lush green grass, foraging for fruit, and socializing with her family members. In reality, her world couldn’t be more different.
For the last 55 years, Mo Mo has lived at Yangon Zoological Gardens, the oldest zoo in Myanmar. Here, she spends her days and nights walking and sleeping on concrete floors. Instead of roaming miles finding her own food, like she would in the wild, Mo Mo is forced to perform her famous trick, which involves playing the harmonica and shaking her hips to the tunes. (Who do they think she is – Shakira?) Worst of all, all of the other elephants she’s performed with over the years have passed away so now, Mo Mo is lonelier than ever.
Only a couple of months ago, Mo Mo turned 62 years old, which is a ripe age for an elephant in captivity. To celebrate her birthday and longevity, the Yangon Zoological Gardens dressed her up in a sparkly outfit and released 62 birds. While it’s great that they released dozens of birds, they should have released Mo Mo. It’s a miracle she’s survived all these years in such dire conditions and now, it’s time she was rewarded with the freedom she deserves. Will you help make her birthday wish come true?
Mental Illness and Captivity
Each year, over 2.2 million people visit the Yangon Zoo to admire the hundreds of species that live here. Although Mo Mo is just one of the many animals who are forced to live in this zoo, her suffering is quite hard to overlook. Elephants are naturally very social and emotional animals and when they are deprived of the ability to forage and interact with others in captivity they develop zoochosis, a form of deep mental distress that causes them to exhibit monotonous, pointless behaviors to help them cope with the stress. A study in the U.S., found that approximately two-thirds of captive elephants exhibit stereotypic behaviors such as head bobbing, weaving, and swaying.
The video footage below shows Mo Mo doing exactly that. She doesn’t need a voice to tell us she needs help – this behavior in itself screams, “Help me!”
The zoo claims they treat Mo Mo, “like a human being” and worship her. Yes, they dress her up and give her feasts of cakes and sugar canes, but this is not natural to an elephant and it’s certainly not healthy. While they say she’s in perfect health considering her age, it’s the invisible illness that hurts the most: depression.
The reason for this behavior is simple: she’s robbed of everything natural to her – physical contact with other elephants, everyday challenges of life in the wild, and so much more. When elephants are prevented from doing what is natural to them, they develop the habit of weaving and other stereotypical behaviors and will continue until they’ve reached their goal – whatever it is they are craving.
How You Can Help
After 55 years of living in a concrete enclosure at the Yangon Zoological Gardens, forced to perform silly musical tricks to visitors, it’s time Mo Mo gets the rest and refuge she deserves. Please sign this petition urging the Yangon Zoo to release her to an elephant sanctuary where she can spend her final years with dignity.
You can increase your impact by sharing the petition on your social media pages, like Facebook and Twitter. Let’s get as many signatures as possible! Time is running out for Mo Mo. Who knows how much longer she’ll have left, so let’s make her final years happy ones!
Image source: Po Htaung