Elephants living alone in zoos around the world

Elephants living alone in zoos around the world
Elephants, photo: Canva

Elephants are social animals who share strong bonds with their family. They’re known to walk around 5 kilometers (3.2 miles) a day in the wild. 

Elephants living in captivity in zoos are already unable to walk as much as they want, but being kept on their own also eliminates their social structure, which is a necessity for them. Especially females typically live in herds in the wild.

Animal welfare organizations have rescued some elephants from captivity, but there are still elephants in zoos worldwide who are kept in solitary confinement. The Animal Reader made a list of all elephants worldwide who still live alone and suffer at zoos in 2022.

If there are elephants living alone in zoos who are not on this list, please mail us at info@theanimalreader.com.

Shankar at Delhi Zoo in India
The 26-year-old male African elephant Shankar has been living alone at Delhi Zoo for years. When Shankar was just a baby, he was kidnapped from the wild in Africa and put on a plane to India. 

He has been at Delhi Zoo ever since. In the beginning, he had a female friend named Vambai, but she passed away in 2001, and Shankar has been living alone since then.

Nikita Dhawan, the founder of the Indian animal rights organization Youth For Animals, has been fighting for his release. 

Happy and Patty at Bronx Zoo in the US
Happy is a 50-year-old Asian elephant living alone at the Bronx Zoo. She was captured as a baby and sent to the United States.

Instead of being with her mom, she spent the first five years of her life at a safari park in Florida. She was then moved to the Bronx Zoo in New York City.

In 2006, her friend at the zoo died, and she has been alone ever since. The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) is fighting for Happy’s right to be a free elephant living in a sanctuary with companion elephants.

Patty, a 52-year-old Asian elephant, also lives alone at Bronx Zoo. According to the zoo, the animals are kept apart because they don’t get along.

Lucy at Edmonton Valley Zoo in Canada
The 47-year-old Asian elephant Lucy was born in Sri Lanka in 1975 and captured when she was two. After a series of abusive transfers and unsuccessful breeding loans to the Calgary Zoo, Lucy went to Edmonton Valley Zoo, where she has been for the last 34 years.

For 18 years, she had the company of the African elephant Samantha. But in 2007, Samantha was transported to the North Carolina Zoo for breeding and never returned. Since then, Lucy has been alone.  

Edmonton Valley Zoo is in the far northwest reaches of Canada, where winter temperatures drop to well below freezing. She has developed many illnesses over the years, but the zoo refuses to find her a better-suited home with other elephants.

The zoo said recently that they’re preparing for her eventual death. “It is inevitable that one day Lucy will die, and it’s going to be a very sad day for the public and folks around the world who are very aware of her,” zoo director Gary Dewar told local media.

He added that Lucy has many health problems. She breathes through her mouth because of a blockage in her trunk, which is uncommon for elephants. Dewar said the zoo can’t figure out what is blocking her breathing without sedating her, but experts have advised not to sedate her. Lucy is also overweight and suffers from arthritis.

Asha at Natural Bridge Zoo in the US
Asha is a 39-year-old African female elephant who was born in Zimbabwe. She lost her entire family in a horrific slaughter in 1984. She was sent to the US at only two years old and has since been exploited by Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia.

The zoo has nearly 150 violations of the Animal Welfare Act but is still open. And despite many public pleas, Asha is still kept by herself in a small confinement at the zoo. 

“When she’s not being forced to carry visitors on her back in the sweltering summer heat, she’s historically been chained in a barn with damp concrete flooring in the frigid winters—and she’s held alone, unable to socialize or communicate with another of her kind,” animal welfare organization PETA said in February.

Miyako lives alone in Japan
The female elephant Miyako has been living alone at the Utsunomiya Zoo in Japan for 49 years. She was taken from Thailand when she was just six months old. 

Her case is urgent, Ulara Nakagawa, the founder of Elephants in Japan, told The Animal Reader: “She is 49 years old, and she has been alone her entire life since she was a six-month baby brought from Thailand. Never had a companion, ever.”

Sunny at Nomi Ishikawa Zoo in Japan
Sunny is a 42-year-old Asian elephant who has been living on her own since 1989 at Nomi Ishikawa Zoo in Japan.  She lives in a cell with little to do and nowhere to walk. 

Teru at Yuki Park Zoo in Japan
The 38-year-old Asian elephant Teru has little stimulation in her concrete outdoor enclosure at Kofu City Yuki Park Zoo in Japan. Teru used to have a companion named Mimi, but she died 22 years ago. Since then, Teru has been all alone.

Twelve elephants live solitary at zoos in Japan, according to Elephants in Japan. Fuko has been alone for more than twelve years and spends most of her time in a tiny indoor cage at Nagano Chausayama Zoo.

Mali at Manilla Zoo in the Philippines
Mali (short for Vishwamali) is a female Asian elephant who lives alone in Manilla Zoo in the Philippines. She was born in Sri Lanka in 1974 and has been living at the zoo since 1977.

In December 2021, the zoo said it wanted to keep Mali even though People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) offered to pay for her transfer to a sanctuary. According to PETA, Mali is one of the saddest elephants in the world.

Bunka at Yerevan Zoo in Armenia
Bunka is a 15-year-old Asian elephant kept alone at Yerevan Zoo in Armenia. He was born at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia and in 2014, taken away from his mother when he was seven. He lives in a concrete cage with nothing to do and no companions.

Ely at Zoo San Juan De Aragon in Mexico
Ely is a female African elephant who has been living alone at the Zoo San Juan De Aragon in Mexico for the pas two years. She arrived at the zoo after being forcd to do tricks at Vasquez Circus for 35 years.

Animal welfare foundation Gentle Giants took the zoo to court to allow Ely a life in a sanctuary. “Ely will receive the medical care she needs and the physical and mental stimulation that she deserves, while at the same time she is allowed to live with freedom and dignity among her own. Elephants need other elephants to thrive, to truly be able to enjoy a fulfilling life,” the foundation said in a video message.

Last week a judge ruled that Ely would remain by herself at the zoo.

Bin Lu at Hefei Wildlife Park in China
The male elephant Bin Lu was born in 1988 and has been living alone at Hefei Wildlife Park in China since 2007. His surroundings are very minimal and netizens reported on Chinese social media that he shows stereotypical behaviour. In 2019, Zimbabwe exported around 30 wild-caught baby elephants to Chinese zoos.

This article focuses on elephants living alone in zoos worldwide, but the suffering of elephants in captivity used for the tourism industry is immense. More elephant news


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