Retire Mistreated Zoo Elephants to a Sanctuary

Target: Bill Balfour, interim director of the Honolulu Zoo

Goal: Retire Honolulu Zoo’s elephants to a certified sanctuary.

The Honolulu Zoo is home to two allegedly kidnapped Indian elephants named Vaigai and Mari, who have been living in an inadequate enclosure for decades. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has cited the Honolulu Zoo’s elephant enclosure for numerous violations. According to the AZA, the enclosure does not provide enough shade from the scorching Hawaiian sun. The enclosure also reportedly has brackish water that has not been adequately tested for disease, an absence of habitat enrichment for the elephants, and unsafe rocks that are dangerous for the elephants’ feet.

The problems with their living space, while clearly troubling, are not the extent of these elephants’ woes. In late 2016, the AZA also reported that the elephants were seen playing with an old car battery that they had dug up. There have also been reports of zookeepers using painful and cruel bullhooks to control the elephants. Because of all this, the Honolulu Zoo was ranked third on In Defense of Animals’ 2016 list of the top 10 worst zoos for elephants.

The Honolulu Zoo has been plagued with problems in recent years. In 2016, the zoo lost its AZA accreditation. One of the main reasons the zoo lost its accreditation was because of a lack of funding and little support of the zoo from both the City and County of Honolulu. There is also a huge turnover in leadership at the zoo — five directors have quit in just the last six years. A zoo with this many problems is not the right place for two elephants that require a large amount of space and stimulation to be happy.

Vaigai and Mari deserve a better life than what is being provided for them at the Honolulu Zoo. Sign this petition to urge the interim director of the Honolulu Zoo to retire these elephants to a sanctuary that has the space that the animals need.


Dear Mr. Balfour,

I’m writing to ask you to move the two Indian elephants at the Honolulu Zoo, Vaigai and Mari, to a sanctuary that will be suitable for their needs. The AZA has cited your zoo for numerous violations over the years. The zoo has been given citations for not providing enough shade for the elephants, for having brackish and inadequately tested water, and harmful rocks throughout the elephants’ enclosure that hurt their feet. The AZA also cited an absence of habitat enrichment for the elephants.

Additionally, there have been reports of zookeepers using painful bullhooks to control the elephants. Now that the Honolulu Zoo has lost its AZA accreditation, it’s clear that this zoo is not the right place for two elephants that need a large amount of space and stimulation to thrive. To give Vaigai and Mari the best lives possible, please retire them to a certified sanctuary.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Daniel Ramirez

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