The Bronx Zoo spans over 260 acres and has 600 animal species. 700,000 people, however, have signed an online petition, asking them to let one animal go. Happy is a 46-year-old elephant and from the tram, people can see her in her enclosure alone, which is the only way she has lived since her companion died 13 years ago. Animal rights activists have long argued she should be released to a sanctuary calling her isolation inhumane. Recently, writer Yashar Ali tweeted an in-depth take on what makes the elephant so miserable and why the zoo might not be interested in changing that.
Activists have been calling for the release of the gentle giant for years. “You’re not really seeing an elephant when you look at a captive situation like this; you’re seeing kind of a shell of an elephant,” said Kevin Schneider of the Nonhuman Rights Project.
At first, Happy was paired with another elephant named Grumpy. But in 2002, Grumpy was fatally injured in a confrontation with two other Bronx Zoo elephants, Maxine and Patty. Then, Happy started living with a new friend, Sammy, who unfortunately died in 2006. After that, the Wildlife Conservation Society said it would no longer acquire new elephants. Since then, Happy has been alone.
This week, the “Free Happy” campaign has blown up on social media, gaining a promise by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, whose district includes the zoo, to look into the matter.
Zoo officials reportedly said that Happy appears to be content, is cared for by loving handlers, and might suffer from a transfer to an unfamiliar facility.
The Nonhuman Rights Project, however, was having none of it. “You can treat her to these standards, feed her, check her levels,” Schneider said. “But do you have the right to own her and keep her in this essentially solitary confinement? And we argue that no.”