Multiple Captive Elephants Euthanized in Zoos Deserve Justice

Target: Tom Vilsack, Secretary of U.S. Department of Agriculture

Goal: Consider relocation of elephants from zoos to free-roaming sanctuaries.

One of the nation’s oldest captive Asian elephants was euthanized due to an undisclosed condition. Shaunzi, a 53-year-old Asian elephant, took her final breaths at the Los Angeles Zoo, where she had lived for about six years. Several weeks prior, the St. Louis Zoo also euthanized a 50-plus-year old Asian elephant named Donna. And every year, untold numbers of otherwise-healthy zoo animals (including elephants) are euthanized for population control purposes. All of these animals are representative of the plight of zoo elephants, whose life spans tend to be decades shorter than their wild counterparts. About 40 percent of zoo elephants in Europe alone die before they even reach the age of five.

These sad statistics, coupled with the endangered status of Asian elephants in particular, has led to calls for widespread reform. An advocacy group in New York attempted to gain legal personhood rights for a Bronx Zoo-based Asian elephant called Happy. Their case was born from a desire to see Happy relocated to an elephant sanctuary. And a charity group in Europe recently called on governments to ban zoo habitation for elephants and to release captive animals into the wild.

Sign the petition below to encourage better living conditions for some of the planet’s most majestic animals.


Dear Secretary Vilsack,

“Wild individuals can live into their seventies. By contrast, captive individuals continue to suffer reduced lifespans, high infant mortality, poor health, inadequate social opportunities, and enclosures thousands of times smaller than their wild range.” A United Kingdom charity organization aptly summarized the case against keeping elephants in zoos. These animals by their nature are social beings and wanderers, and zoos strip them of the resources they need to survive and thrive. Two of the country’s iconic captive Asian elephants were recently euthanized, and they serve as a stark reminder of the pain captivity continues to inflict on these beautiful beings.

Zoos are promoted as tools to help conserve and save endangered species like the Asian elephant. But these locations are not helping the longevity of animals by crippling their quality of life and, in some instances, prematurely ending those lives to save space. Please listen to the concerns of advocates and help craft a better path forward for elephants that prioritizes sanctuaries, not captivity.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Chamberlain

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