For the past 31 years, the elephant Asha has been living her life according to the schedule prepared for her by the team at a Virginia roadside zoo which is her “home.” Even when the heat of a summer day is unbearable, she has to do her part and give visitors rides at the Natural Bridge Zoo. As the only elephant at the zoo, Asha has no choice but to live in solitude, which is an extremely cruel form of punishment for these extremely social and intelligent animals. The conditions at the Natural Bridge Zoo are inadequate for Asha in every sense of the word. Because of this, advocates are calling on this “zoo” to free Asha and send her to a sanctuary.
According to a Care2 petition, a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) investigation looked into what Asha’s life is like during the winter months, when the zoo shuts down for the season. It was discovered that the elephant spends most of her time in a damp and cold barn with a concrete floor. In 2015, a local news station aired a video showing Asha standing alone in a snow-covered paddock and rocking back and forth. This kind of behavior is easily associated with zoochosis, repetitive actions signifying deep mental distress. The footage also showed the inside of Asha’s enclosure, which was a terrifying sight with no physical barrier for safety and piles of feces on the floor.
After numerous USDA investigations into the case, the zoo’s license has been suspended and they’ve been subjected to heavy fines, but the zoo still remains open to the public and is allowed to “take care” of its animals. The life Asha is forced to live at the roadside zoo is in no way comparable to what it would be like in her natural habitat. There, she would not only be able to exhibit her natural behaviors and roam over large territories, but she would also belong to a tightly knit community, since elephants are exceedingly social animals who need the companionship and support of others. Instead, Asha is exploited in the summer and surrounded by squalor in winter, and the only reason for that is human so-called “entertainment” and financial gain of the establishment.
A specialized sanctuary is the best place to live for an elephant who cannot be returned to the wild. It is not too late for Asha to finally learn that life can be peaceful and enjoyable. Click here to sign the petition urging the Natural Bridge Zoo to send her to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and give her the life she deserves.
Image source: Voices for Asha the Elephant/Facebook