They call me Happy.
Before I had this name, I lived with my family, deep in a lush forest. One day, when I was still a baby, I saw most of my family killed in front of me, and my young cousins and I were rounded up and taken to a place that was nothing like where we were born. One of my cousins died within a few months, and the six of us who were left were sent to yet another frightening place. We were scared and missed our family terribly, but together, we coped with this life the best we could.
Then we were all separated. My cousin Grumpy and I were sent to the place I am now, where I have been for almost 50 years. There were many other elephants here then. We were all forced to give rides, participate in tug-of-war contests with humans, and perform tricks. One day, two other elephants attacked Grumpy, and Grumpy died. It still causes me pain to remember that time but I know Patty and Maxine did this to Grumpy because they were suffering, as we all were, from never being able to leave this small place. For a little while, I had the company of a young elephant named Sammie but she died too.
After that, I was alone. I have been alone for seventeen years, and they will not let me go. People come to look at me, and then they are gone. I often rock from side to side for comfort and I have to lift my feet to take the pressure off because it hurts to stand all the time on this hard ground. I can see Patty, the only other elephant left here, across the barriers, and I know she feels sad, stressed, and alone too.
These days, I think often of my mother–the feeling of her trunk brushing the top of my head, my body pressed against her much larger one when I was afraid, uncertain, or just wanting to be close to her. Other elephants were all around us, and I felt safe. The memory of that feeling has never left me.
Once, one of the humans, someone in the endless crowds of people who pass by on the train that grinds past us almost every day, called out to me. She said people were trying to help me. I never forgot this either.
I miss Grumpy so much. At the same time, I’m glad she is free from this place. I hope to be free from this place someday too. I want to see my mother again. I want to see other elephants again. I want to be able to roam in a quiet, green space again. I want to be an elephant again.
When elephants have the right to liberty, it will no longer be possible to deprive them of their freedom in zoos or anywhere else. The NhRP’s court case to free Happy made legal history for all animals and will help light the way to elephant freedom worldwide. Now, continuing our fight to free the Bronx Zoo elephants, we’re working to pass the first bill in the US that would ban elephant captivity, including in zoos.