Stock Groups

Illegally jailed at the Bronx Zoo? Court to weigh Happy the Elephant’s rights -Breaking


© Reuters. This undated social media image shows Happy the elephant at Bronx Zoo, New York City. Gigi Glendinning/via REUTERS


By Luc Cohen

(Reuters) – Do female elephants have the same rights and legal protections as human beings?

This is the question New York’s highest court will be considering on Wednesday. It comes as the latest in years of a long-running push to remove Happy the Elephant (Bronx Zoo) from its zoo.

Since 1977, the 51-year old Asian elephant has been calling this zoo his home.

Four years ago, Nonhuman Rights Project asked New York Courts to allow Happy to be released to one the United States’ elephant sanctuary. Happy claimed she was being unlawfully held.

According to the group, Happy is entitled to habeas corpus. This legal procedure allows illegally held people and someone on their behalf to inquire as regards why they are being detained.

New York law is not clear on the definition of “person” and Happy, according to group members, should be considered one.

The group stated that elephants were autonomous and possess sophisticated cognitive abilities in their petition. Happy’s desire to exercise autonomy and bodily freedom is just as important to her as to us.

Happy has been kept alone in a one-acre (0.4-hectare)enclosure at the zoo since around 2006, court records show. The elephant is a social animal that can be sociable and gregarious.

Grumpy, her companion for a long time, was also attacked by elephants in that same decade. His injuries were not healed and he was put to death. Sammie, another companion of Happy, died later.

Previous efforts to make animals legal persons, such as chimpanzees and lions, were unsuccessful.

According to the Bronx Zoo’s Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Happy is in good health and would be happy living at a sanctuary.

Jim Breheny (director of the zoo) said that the push to give habeas Corpus rights to animals “demeans every person who has sought such relief.”

In February 2020, a New York court dismissed Happy’s original petition. Happy was deemed an “intelligent and autonomous being”, which “may have the right to liberty” but is not legal a person. The ruling was later upheld by an appeals court.

Hearing before the Albany Court of Appeals is set for 2 p.m. (1800 GMT).