Happy could be the loneliest elephant at the Bronx Zoo, and on Tuesday the 47-year-old Asian elephant was named in a lawsuit charging she has been “unlawfully imprisoned” by making her living in isolation with inadequate space to roam.
According to the Nonhuman Rights Project, the suit is the first legal action taken on behalf of Happy who has been living in isolation for more than ten years since the death of her partner, Grumpy. The two had lived together for more than 25 years. There are two other elephants remaining at the zoo- Maxine and Patty, however they were aggressive to Grumpy and fatally injured her back in 2002 which led to her death.
Happy was subsequently paired up with Sammy, a young elephant, however soon after his arrival at the zoo he contracted a liver disease and died. Sammy’s death was the zoo’s third elephant death in four years.
Jim Breheny, the director of the Bronx Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society have been named as defendants. Animal advocacy groups have accused the zoo of mistreating the elephants including living in cold, winter conditions and in cramped quarters. Zoo officials, however have continued to deny the animal cruelty allegations citing the elephants show no signs of stress and are closely bonded with their caretakers.
In their natural habitats, elephants freely roam at least 20 miles a day and live in social groups. In the early 1970s, Happy had been captured in Thailand along with six other babies; they were all named after Snow White’s seven dwarfs and shipped to the United States to zoos and circuses. Happy and Grumpy arrived at the Bronx Zoo in 1977. Happy is still there despite multiple offers from humane organizations to transfer the lone elephant to a sanctuary. In 2005, the zoo announced it would not be bringing anymore elephants, and the exhibits will eventually be closed.
Meanwhile Happy lives alone. NhRP President Steven M. Wise: “Elephants are not meant to live alone.”
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