An international animal rights group Tuesday listed the Bronx Zoo in its “Hall of Shame” over the alleged treatment of its elephant Happy.
In Defense of Animals, in releasing its annual list of “worst zoos,” said the Wildlife Conservation Society, which owns the zoo, has kept the elephant in “solitary confinement” for nearly a decade. The group contended that Happy was able to recognize herself in the mirror during an experiment and showed signs of self-awareness, a trait not commonly found in most animals.
“Despite this ... the researchers have abandoned Happy in an outdated exhibit, leaving her to rot in loneliness and the cold — with only the distant memory of her own mirrored reflection for companionship,” the report said.
Jim Breheny, the Bronx Zoo’s director, issued a statement maintaining that Happy’s conditions are far from “horrific” and that the elephant is not in “solitary confinement.”
“While Happy does not share the same physical space with our two other elephants because they do not get along, she is in tactile and auditory contact with them,” he said. “Happy also spends several hours a day interacting with the people who care for her.”
The zoo is phasing out its elephant exhibit, but the activist group wants it to make sure the 44-year-old Happy lives life in an animal sanctuary.
In Defense of Animals has published its list of worst zoos for the past 12 years. The only other New York zoo to make the list this year was the Buffalo Zoo because the group contends its elephants’ living conditions are unsuitable for their physical and social needs.