3 Zoo Elephants Who Need Us for an International Day of Action

On June 28, elephant advocates from around the world will be coming together for an international day of action intended to raise awareness about the plight of elephants in zoos and why they don’t belong there.

The International Day of Action for Elephants in Zoos was first launched in 2009 by In Defense of Animals (IDA) in an effort to help educate us about the devastating impact captivity has on elephants, and to push for moving them to accredited sanctuaries.

While IDA is working to protect all captive elephants, this year it’s focusing the campaign on three lonely individuals in North American zoos who particularly need advocacy on their behalf. According to IDA, “All of these solitary elephants are female – perhaps a particular tragedy given that in the wild, they would be living in close-knit, multi-generational social groups, as aunties, grandmothers, mothers, daughters, maybe even granddaughters. The females would normally stay with their matrilineal families for life! Of course, we do not forget the males who also maintain ties to their maternal groups for life if given the chance.”


Asha is an African elephant who was taken from the wild in Zimbabwe in the 1980s after her mother was culled. She was moved to the Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia, which received the shameful distinction of being the worst zoo for elephants on IDA’s most recent top ten list for keeping her alone, forcing her to give rides in the sweltering summer heat, confining her to a barn in the winter and using a bullhook on her in front of visitors, who later complained about the abuse.

The zoo was also the subject of a recent undercover investigation conducted by the Humane Society of the United States that uncovered a multitude of problems concerning her treatment and the care of all of the animals there, which resulted in the suspension of its exhibitors permit earlier this spring.


Lucky is an Asian elephant who was taken from the wild in Thailand as a baby before being moved to the states and eventually the San Antonio Zoo in Texas, which came in second on IDA’s list of worst zoos for keeping her alone. Her advocates have been campaigning to get the zoo to do something about her situation, but it has stubbornly refused to let her go and plans on keeping her until she dies. Earlier this spring the Animal Legal Defense Fund initiated a lawsuit over the zoo’s failure to provide her with proper care and companionship, with the ultimate goal of moving her to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.


Lucy is an Asian elephant living at the Edmonton Valley Zoo in Canada who was bought by the from a wildlife dealer in the 1970s when she was a baby. Despite claims from the zoo – which was IDA’s most recent Hall of Shame winner – that her life is good, her advocates have been fighting to have her moved for years over concerns that she is being kept in isolation, in an inadequate enclosure in a cold climate we know is inappropriate for elephants.

These zoos are also acting in defiance of updated regulations issued by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which at least recognizes the social needs of captive elephants, and now requires zoos with less than three elephants to either add more to their facilities or relocate their current residents by September 2016.

Unfortunately, isolation isn’t the only issue surrounding these three elephants and others around the world who also suffer from health issues related to confinement, including foot infections and arthritis, broken bonds, failed breeding programs, psychological distress and shortened lifespans.

Zoo supporters continue to push the importance of keeping elephants in captivity to enhance education and conservation efforts, but seeing these intelligent, social, far-ranging animals trapped in artificial environments doesn’t teach us anything about who elephants are as individuals or as a species, or how we should be respecting and protecting wild populations.

At least some places are making changes for the better. Already more than two dozen zoos have closed, or will be closing, their elephant exhibits for reasons that range from a lack of funding to expand exhibits to welfare concerns, such as inadequate space, unsuitable climates and insufficient social groups.

How to Help

Animal advocates will be holding events at these three zoos on Sunday, June 28 and IDA is encouraging people to attend, but for those who aren’t local, you can show your support contacting reps who live in these zoos’ districts urging the relocation of these elephants and by sharing photos, poems, graphics, art, words, or other information supporting the freedom of captive elephants on their Facebook event page.

You can also help by signing and sharing the Care2 petitions going on behalf of Asha, Lucky and Lucy, urging officials to do the right thing for each of these elephants.

For more information about how to support efforts to help elephants, visit In Defense of Animals.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Dimitris Dallis
Past Member 3 years ago

Signed signed signed...

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey3 years ago


claudia S.
Claudia S3 years ago

Thank you for sharing

nathan KENNY
emma KENNY3 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Pamela A.
Pamela A3 years ago

Signed this one a few ago
Hope it helped

delilah st louis
delilah st louis3 years ago

Thanks for sharing , signed

Georgina Elizab McAlliste
.3 years ago

Signed long ago.I think the mentality of humans must change drastically before anything happens for to save these elephants....what a pity how dumb we are..

Telica Randall-Fraser
Telica R3 years ago

Thank you for sharing

Natasha Salgado
Past Member 3 years ago

So sad. All signed-thanks