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Press release

Statement on Dismissal of Colorado Habeas Corpus Petition

Below is a statement from the Nonhuman Rights Project on the decision issued by District Court Judge Eric Bentley on Dec. 3rd, dismissing the NhRP’s habeas corpus petition on behalf of the five elephants imprisoned at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

The zoo has already attempted to spin this decision on its social media pages, but one thing about it is clear: based on the factual record before the Court, which consisted of declarations from seven of the world’s most renowned experts on elephant cognition and behavior, Judge Bentley found that the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo “deprives Missy, Kimba, Lucky, LouLou, and Jambo of the space and variety of terrain that they need to roam, exercise, and live healthy elephant lives; and that they would be better off in an accredited elephant sanctuary.”

“As a matter of pure justice,” Judge Bentley acknowledges, “the NHRP has made a persuasive case that elephants are entitled to be treated with the dignity befitting their species; and that that cannot be done, no matter how conscientious those who care for them may be, if they are confined in zoos that lack the substantial acreage needed to allow them to flourish.”

However, despite recognizing the injustice inflicted upon these elephants, Judge Bentley concluded that habeas corpus is unavailable to remedy this wrong. This conclusion is simply incorrect. In contrast to his careful attention to the factual record, Judge Bentley’s legal analysis is incomplete, deficient, and mistaken in critical ways, and the NhRP is prepared to demonstrate these errors in future filings.

We are still analyzing the decision, and in the coming weeks, we look forward to announcing our next legal steps. Further litigation will not be necessary if the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo chooses to do what is morally right and just: release the elephants to an accredited sanctuary, where they can live out the rest of their lives in an environment that can meet their complex needs (CMZ can choose to finally accept our standing settlement offer, even though they’ve rejected it in the past). Nevertheless, the NhRP is prepared to litigate this case to its ultimate conclusion. Jambo, Kimba, LouLou, Lucky, and Missy are entitled to their freedom, and they deserve nothing less.

  • Visit the elephants’ client page including the elephants’ biographies and information about the exhibit.
  • Access photos and videos of the elephants for use in media coverage (credit: Molly Condit).

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