Activist Group Says Happy the Elephant is Being ‘Unlawfully Imprisoned’ at New York City Zoo

An activist group has filed a legal petition alleging that Happy, an elephant who lives alone in a New York City zoo, is being “unlawfully imprisoned.”

The Nonhuman Rights Project announced the action Tuesday. The group says it seeks to give animals “legally recognized fundamental rights”; it has filed multiple legal actions on behalf of animals such as elephants and chimpanzees.

“Our world-class experts say that, like all elephants, Happy is an autonomous being who evolved to walk 20 or more miles a day as a member of a multi-generational large social group,” said Nonhuman Rights Project founder Steven Wise.

For the past 12 years, Happy, now 47, has lived mostly alone at the Bronx Zoo after her companion, an elephant named Grumpy, was fatally injured in an incident with other elephants in 2002, the group says.

After the incident, Happy was briefly paired with another elephant, which also died.

Happy has been kept apart from the elephants that injured her mate, the New York Daily News reports. The publication cites advocates who say Happy is highly intelligent and has demonstrated signs of self-recognition in 2005.

In a Tuesday release, the Nonhuman Rights Project cites a New York Court of Appeals concurring opinion that stopped short of calling a chimpanzee a person, but said “there is no doubt that it is not merely a thing,” according to the group.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Joel Shannon