A court will decide Wednesday whether an elephant can be a person.
Happy the Elephant, a resident of the Bronx Zoo in New York, is being considered for release by the state’s top court. Happy, 51, has lived in the zoo since 1977. However, an animal rights group launched a coordinated campaign to free her in 2018, declaring Happy eligible for the rights of a “person” under New York law.
“Held in isolation elephants become bored, depressed, aggressive, catatonic and fail to thrive,” Nonhuman Rights Project wrote. “Human caregivers are no substitute for the numerous, complex social relationships and the rich gestural and vocal communication exchanges that occur between free-living elephants.”
While lowers courts have repeatedly upheld the ruling that Happy is not a “person,” Nonhuman Rights Project is hoping the top court will overturn the decision.
Nonhuman Rights Project launched their efforts to free Happy four years ago with a petition for a common law writ of habeas corpus. The petition demanded the state recognize Happy as a legal person with all rights associated with the designation.
Protesters take particular issue with Happy’s social health, saying that keeping the elephant alone in her enclosure is damaging to its health.
“The Bronx Zoo has been given the shameful title of the 5th worst zoo for elephants in the country,” the NRP continues in an online petition. “The New York Times calls Happy the Bronx Zoo’s loneliest elephant. That’s because this highly intelligent and social being is one of the only zoo elephants in the entire United States who is being held alone. And it looks like her living conditions won’t change anytime soon unless we do something about it.”
Happy originally had two companions – named Grumpy and Sammie – but both have died over the decades. Grumpy passed away from injuries caused by other elephants.
Elephants are a widely-revered animal due to their intelligence, unique capabilities and rarity. They hold a special place of respect in many cultures.
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