Can a Lawsuit Finally Save This Lonely Zoo Elephant?

Animal advocates have been campaigning for years to free Lucky, the lone Asian elephant at the San Antonio Zoo in Texas, and now she’s getting some legal help that her supporters hope will get her out of there and into a sanctuary.

Lucky was taken from her family in the wild in Thailand when she was just a baby and has been at the San Antonio Zoo since 1962, where has spent her entire life as an attraction for visitors. Ginny, the last elephant she bonded with died in 2004, and she’s been left either with no compatible companion, or in isolation, ever since.

Concerns over Lucky’s living conditions and solitude have landed the zoo on In Defense of Animals’ annual top ten list of the worst zoos for elephants multiple times over the years after its first appearance in 2007. It was ranked number one the following year – a shameful distinction it held for the next three years in row – and was featured again last year.

Despite public concern for her well being, the zoo has stubbornly refused to change anything, and plans to keep her there until she dies. The zoo is 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 fewer than three elephants to either add more to their facilities or relocate their current residents by September 2016.

Earlier this year the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a notice of intent to sue, but the zoo hasn’t made any meaningful changes for Lucky and has refused mediation, so now she’ll be getting her day in court.

This week the ALDF filed a lawsuit on behalf of three residents, with the support of One World Conservation, which has been advocating for Lucky, arguing numerous aspects of the conditions she’s being kept in violate the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which make it illegal to harm or harass endangered species.

Her supporters believe leaving her isolated in a small enclosure without proper shelter on a ground surface that’s not appropriate for elephants are all factors causing her physical and psychological harm in violation of the ESA.

“More and more zoos have admitted that they cannot meet elephants’ complex needs and have closed their elephant exhibits,” said ALDF executive director, Stephen Wells. “Instead of acknowledging the obvious–that it cannot meet Lucky’s needs–the San Antonio Zoo makes excuses about why it is unwilling to allow her to have a better life. We hope the zoo will choose to let Lucky live out her days in the more natural environment of a sanctuary, rather than stand around waiting to die where she is now.”

In the end, her advocates hope to see her moved to a sanctuary, where she’ll be able to live out her remaining days in a more natural habitat and enjoy the company of others of her kind. The ALDF has agreed to pay the cost of relocating her, while the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee has said it is open to discussing accepting her.

Hopefully, the court will rule in her favor and we’ll have one less lonely zoo elephant in the U.S. For more info on how to help Lucky, check out One World Conservation and Free Lucky From the San Antonio Zoo on Facebook.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Mark Donner
Mark Donner3 years ago

Past Member: Since you were rejected by Trip Advisor, I decided to give this animal abuser a zoo with a terrible rating, the only rating they deserved with a little blurb to let them know they can't hide under the radar. Everyone should be giving them comments on Trip Advisor, until they stop the abuse and do something for this sad elephant.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

mari s.
Mari S3 years ago

We're with you Lucky - and all elephants - who NEED to be happy, healthy and comfy in as natural a habitat as possible -- an elephant sanctuary is the place to be! We're behind you! We love you!

Kiki Baron
Past Member 3 years ago

Wrote on Trip Advisor for that Zoo my opnion and as an answer i got the following :
"Thank you for your review. We have opted not to publish your review as it does not meet our guidelines for traveler reviews ",,,, so much for expressing my opinion ---- not allowed

Kiki Baron
Past Member 3 years ago

Petition for Lucky the elephant !!!!

Kiki Baron
Past Member 3 years ago

One of the most deplorable cases of animal treatment at the San Antonio Zoo can be seen in the story of Lucky. Lucky’s care (or lack there of) is one of the main reasons San Antonio has made its way onto the worst lists for zoos.

Lucky lives in a half-acre enclosure with minimal shade and a hard concrete surface known to cause orthopedic issues in elephants. She has also been living in solitude for the majority of her time in the zoo.

When her companion, Alport, died after sustaining a serious orthopedic injury in 2007, Lucky was left alone for the next three years. During this time the zoo looked for other companions for her but no other zoo was willing to send an elephant to San Antonio (likely because of their reputation). That changed in 2010 when an elephant named Queenie, later renamed Boo, was rescued from a private owner and sent by the USDA to live as a companion for Lucky.

However, Queenie passed away in March of 2013, and the San Antonio Zoo currently has no plans to either relinquish Lucky to a sanctuary, or to provide her with another companion. The zoo contends that Lucky is too old to be moved to a sanctuary, and insists that keeping her in an inadequate environment, with no others of her kind to satisfy her needs for socialization, is the only choice for her. Elephants can live up to 70 years in the wild, meaning Lucky could have 20 more years of miserable solitude ahead of her.

Manuela C.
Manuela C3 years ago

I hope they win and she can move out of there.

David M.
David M3 years ago

I hopes the courts can more effective than petitions have been in helping Lucky.

Pat P.
Pat P3 years ago

Why aren't there petitions with many more signatures? At least, 100,000, but, preferably, many more would help. How is it that so many employees who work in zoos are insensitive to the animals. I would hope that they aren't so driven by money, as some of the people who run them. Lucky needs to get out of that horrible zoo, ASAP.

Ricky T.
Ricky T3 years ago

Her name is a contradiction, sadly! Must try anything to save her!