Humans pride themselves on being unique, but for elephants, being different isn’t so great. Unfortunately, poor Chendra hasn’t had any choice in the matter. She is the Oregon Zoo’s only Borneo pygmy elephant, a critically endangered species that faces increasing risk of extinction as our consumption of palm oil sustains and grows. As such, the other elephants held at this zoo have rejected her.


Elephants are meant to run and thrive in herds, and without one to call her own, Chendra endures an incredibly lonely life, which is known to be both emotionally and physically painful for these animals. This is definitely affecting her. She has been diagnosed with profound stereotypic behavior that includes incessantly walking around in circles. Sadly, in this mannerism, she is actually not alone, as such behavior is commonly witnessed in approximately two-thirds of captive elephants. It also doesn’t help that she is blind in one eye.

Elephants don’t do well in zoos, period, and studies show that elephants kept in zoos tend to live half as long as their wild counterparts. In fact, National Geographic has said it’s even worse for Asian elephants like Chendra, who average only 19 years for female zoo residents, compared to 42 years in the wild. But life in the Oregon Zoo may be even more detrimental than usual, as this place has been named seven times as one of the worst zoos in the U.S. for elephants by In Defense of Animals (IDA). Its history includes 24 premature elephant deaths, including those of seven babies who died within their first year of life.

The Oregon Zoo has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of compassion for these animals and recently chose to euthanize one of its exploited elephants, Packy, rather than let the animal finish out his life in dignity in the comfort of a sanctuary. One of Packy’s keepers called it “a risk-based decision made by politicians, attorneys, and other officials who fear the future repercussions of keeping him alive” and “not based on science, safety or Packy’s best interest.” We can’t let the same happen to Chendra.

Former Toronto Zoo elephants are proof that life spent in a sanctuary is the next best thing to living out natural lives in the wild. Sanctuary-based elephants quickly adapt back to wild behaviors, shedding all symptoms of captive mental stress. All elephants deserve to know this type of freedom and joy, and Chendra would most certainly benefit from such a move.


Sign this petition then contact the Oregon Zoo, the Zoo Foundation, and Metro Council directly and ask that Chendra be allowed a humane retirement in sanctuary now.

Here are their numbers:

Oregon Zoo’s Director, Don Moore, 503-220-2450
Metro Council President, Tom Hughes, 503-797-1989 
Oregon Zoo Foundation Communications Coordinator, Rita Paolo, 503-220-5771

If you’re in Oregon, you might also consider taking action in cooperation with the Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants organization, which meets weekly.


In addition, wherever you live, please do your part for all captive elephants (and all captive animals) by never supporting zoos and other enclosures that limit the freedoms of wild animals.

 Image source: Care2