Free Happy The Elephant

11,258 signatures toward our 30,000 Goal

37.53% Complete

Sponsor: The Animal Rescue Site

The Bronx Zoo has held Happy the elephant in a 1-acre-prison for the last 13 years. She deserves her freedom!


Happy the elephant has lived in captivity almost her entire life.

She was captured when she was just 5 years old, and has spent the last 45 as a resident of the Bronx zoo1.

Happy has been the sole inhabitant of her "1-acre prison" for the last 13 years in the zoo, a facility that was named America's fifth worst zoo for elephants in 20212.

Like many elephants, Happy is an intelligent and understanding animal. In 2005, she passed a mirror test, showing self-awareness by recognizing her own reflection3.

In the last two decades scientists have found that elephants are even smarter than we previously thought.

Several studies have shown that elephants are adept tool users and cooperative problem solvers; they are highly empathic, comforting one another when upset; and likely have a sense of self4.

The Nonhuman Rights Project maintains that because of her advanced intelligence, Happy should not be from imprisoned against her will5. The argument that an elephant deserves the same rights as a human also has precedent, as is the definition of personhood under U.S. law6.

"She has an interest in exercising her choices and deciding who she wants to be with, and where to go, and what to do, and what to eat, and the zoo is prohibiting her from making any of those choices herself," said an attorney for Happy7.

The Nonhuman Rights Project is now fighting for Happy's freedom, taking her case to New York's highest court to demand that the Bronx Zoo release Happy to an elephant sanctuary8.

Elephants are social creatures that need freedom and connection with other elephants to thrive. Sign the petition and ask the Bronx Zoo to release Happy to an elephant sanctuary to live out the rest of her life in peace!

More on this issue:

  1. Michael Hill, Associated Press (18 May 2022), "Happy is an Asian elephant. But is she also a person?."
  2. In Defense of Animals (2021), "Even the 'Best' Zoos Damage Elephant Brains."
  3. Ben Guarino, The Washington Post (12 April 2017), "Another point for elephant intelligence: They know when their bodies are in the way."
  4. Ferris Jabr, Scientific American (26 February 2014), "The Science Is In: Elephants Are Even Smarter Than We Realized."
  5. Nonhuman Rights Project (2022), "First elephant to pass mirror self-recognition test; held alone at the Bronx Zoo.."
  6. Jill Lepore, The Atlantic (16 November 2021) "The Elephant Who Could Be A Person."
  7. Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Reason (19 May 2022), "Are Elephants People? New York's Highest Court Hears Case for Animal Personhood."
  8. Marisa Iati, The Washington Post (18 May 2022), "Is Happy the zoo elephant legally a person? A court will decide.."
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The Petition:

To Jim Breheny, Director of the Bronx Zoo and Executive Vice President of the Wildlife Conservation Society Zoos & Aquarium,

I am deeply saddened by the fact that Happy the elephant has been the sole inhabitant of a single-acre yard for more than a decade at the Bronx Zoo, a clear violation of Association of Zoos and Aquariums standards, which require each zoo with elephants to have a minimum of three females (or the space to have three females), two males, or three elephants of mixed gender.

The Bronx Zoo was named America's fifth worst zoo for elephants in 2021, largely owed to the state of Happy's enclosure, failing to meet these bare-minimum requirements for elephant wellbeing.

Elephants are social creatures that need freedom and connection with other elephants to thrive. There are many elephant sanctuaries that would readily accept Happy, giving her space to roam and enjoy the company of other elephants in her remaining years.

Happy is nearing 50 years old, and is an extremely intelligent and empathetic animal. I implore you to release Happy to a caring elephant sanctuary, and giver her the freedom she deserves!

Sincerely,

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Signatures: