The Nonhuman Rights Project filed a lawsuit earlier this week to free the 47 year old Happy the Elephant from The Bronx Zoo where she’s been held in captivity for most of her life since the 1970s.
According to the group, they allege (and are probably quite correct) that Happy is unhappy given the fact that elephants are social animals who live in social groups and she’s alone at the zoo.
They also walk 20 miles a day in the wild but that’s something she doesn’t even get a fraction of.
For much of her life, Happy did have a partner—Grumpy, another Asian elephant who was captured along with five other calves in the 1970s, and eventually landed with Happy in the Bronx. But the zoo’s two other remaining elephants, Maxine and Patty, charged Grumpy in 2002, fatally injuring her and leaving Happy all alone. Happy was then briefly paired with a young elephant named Sammy, who soon after contracted a liver disease and was euthanized—the zoo’s third elephant death in just four years, according to the Times.
In the past, animal advocacy groups have accused the Bronx Zoo of mistreating its elephants, citing cold winters and cramped cages, as well as Happy’s isolation. But the zoo has countered that Happy shows “no signs of physiological or psychological stress,” and maintains a close bond with her caretakers. Abruptly severing that bond by sending Happy to an animal sanctuary could be traumatic, according to the zoo’s conservationists.
“The Nonhuman Rights Project is exploiting the Bronx Zoo elephants to advance their own failing cause in the courts as they put forth ludicrous legal arguments and lies about our elephants, facilities and staff,” Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny said in a statement to Gothamist.
We do believe that Happy is attached to her handlers so any decision would have to be cautious in helping her situation if she does get her freedom. What would that mean for Happy who’s attached to her humans and they’d have to be separated?
The answers we think we know aren’t always clear.
Whatever happens, let’s hope Happy ends up truly Happy.