Free Captive Elephants From Premature Deaths

Target: Tom Vilsack, Secretary of U.S. Department of Agriculture

Goal: Consider relocation of elephants from zoos to free-roaming sanctuaries.

One of the nation’s oldest captive Asian elephants was euthanized due to an undisclosed condition. Shaunzi, a 53-year-old Asian elephant, took her final breaths at the Los Angeles Zoo, where she had lived for about six years. Several weeks prior, the St. Louis Zoo also euthanized a 50-plus-year old Asian elephant named Donna. And every year, untold numbers of otherwise-healthy zoo animals (including elephants) are euthanized for population control purposes. All of these animals are representative of the plight of zoo elephants, whose life spans tend to be decades shorter than their wild counterparts. About 40 percent of zoo elephants in Europe alone die before they even reach the age of five.

These sad statistics, coupled with the endangered status of Asian elephants in particular, has led to calls for widespread reform. An advocacy group in New York attempted to gain legal personhood rights for a Bronx Zoo-based Asian elephant called Happy. Their case was born from a desire to see Happy relocated to an elephant sanctuary. And a charity group in Europe recently called on governments to ban zoo habitation for elephants and to release captive animals into the wild.

Sign the petition below to encourage better living conditions for some of the planet’s most majestic animals.


Dear Secretary Vilsack,

“Wild individuals can live into their seventies. By contrast, captive individuals continue to suffer reduced lifespans, high infant mortality, poor health, inadequate social opportunities, and enclosures thousands of times smaller than their wild range.” A United Kingdom charity organization aptly summarized the case against keeping elephants in zoos. These animals by their nature are social beings and wanderers, and zoos strip them of the resources they need to survive and thrive. Two of the country’s iconic captive Asian elephants were recently euthanized, and they serve as a stark reminder of the pain captivity continues to inflict on these beautiful beings.

Zoos are promoted as tools to help conserve and save endangered species like the Asian elephant. But these locations are not helping the longevity of animals by crippling their quality of life and, in some instances, prematurely ending those lives to save space. Please listen to the concerns of advocates and help craft a better path forward for elephants that prioritizes sanctuaries, not captivity.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Chamberlain


  1. All rescued/captive wildlife deserve to live in safe free romaning sancturies!

  2. We humans don’t deserve elephants. Elephants are amazing beings. They are intelligent, loving, sensitive animals. They have a sense of humor, and adore those caring for them. They are faithful. They are intuitive knowing things not taught them. They are a spatular species!!! Humans are not. Zoos are not necessary today. Animals are needed back in the wild, not in zoos. At the very least a sanctuary with land for animals to roam safely is the least we can do after destroying so many animal lives for our entertainment. Will we every learn?

  3. For years we’ve been campaigning for elephants in captivity, elephants being abused, neglected and suffering from inadequate care, nutrition and those imprisoned for profit in zoos. We’re still here campaigning. Has Vilsack listened to animal advocates yet? Apparently not, and I’m not surprised considering that the USDA considers animals (and ‘livestock’) to be products of agriculture. Elephants might not be in that category but it seems that USDA is not fully implementing Animal Welfare 9 C.F.R. Parts 1, 2, and 3 in regards to these magnificent creatures. In a time of escalating mass extinction sanctuaries for wildlife is more imperative than ever.

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