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“Let’s not willingly allow the last of these three tortured souls to die in vain”

By Lauren Choplin

Jill Alibrandi is a Connecticut animal rights activist who has long advocated for freedom and sanctuary for Beulah, Karen, Minnie, and the many other animals exploited by the Commerford Zoo. She is co-founder of the group Connecticut Residents Seeking Sanctuary for the Commerford Animals. On Oct. 22, 2019, at a press conference in Hartford hosted by Connecticut State Representative David Michel, Jill described witnessing Beulah in what we all later discovered—to our horror, sadness, and outrage—were her final hours of life, spent in servitude at the Big E fair in West Springfield, MA. She ends her remarks by calling on Connecticut legislators, the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Connecticut animal organizations “to finally join together and get Minnie released to one of the two accredited sanctuaries in the United States.” Jill’s photo of Beulah lying on her side in obvious distress is a powerful testament to how she suffered as prisoner and property of the Commerford Zoo.As NhRP Director of Government Relations and Campaigns Courtney said at the same press conference, “Another life is still possible” for Minnie. Below is Jill’s statement:

My name is Jill Alibrandi, and I am a Connecticut animal rights activist who has been protesting against the Commerford Zoo’s use of wild animals for human entertainment for many years. Many of my fellow Connecticut activists had been fighting tirelessly for the release of Beulah, Karen and Minnie to an accredited sanctuary, but sadly, because of inaction in our state, now, again, two elephant deaths have died, and the deaths could have been prevented⁠—and the last remaining elephant, Minnie, is in clear and present danger.

Over the years, I have taken and obtained countless footage of the abuse that these wild, majestic creatures have suffered at the hands of the Commerfords. I have witnessed firsthand how they have been slowly stripped of everything that would make their lives meaningful, as an elephant should be allowed to live, and have been reduced to nothing more then a shell of what they once were. However, on September 14th, 2019, I never expected that that day would be the last time I would see Beulah alive.

At 3 p.m. on September 14th, I went into the Big E in Springfield MA, walked over to the Commerford Zoo exhibit, and immediately saw Beulah laying down and not moving but for a few swishes of her tail on a small patch of grass next to a parking lot and behind a busy road. I had been standing there for at least 20 minutes and still, she had not moved. She had no food or water nearby other then a bit of urine-soaked hay. I proceeded to take a few photos and video footage of her, and the photo you see behind me is the one that I took that day.

After I left the fair, I put calls into the Big E, Western Mass Animal Control, and the Connecticut USDA. All went on deaf ears. I expressed my concern about Beulah—and that, although I am by no means an elephant care specialist, I believed that her condition was dire and that Beulah was clearly in distress. Sadly, my fears were confirmed, and Beulah died less then fifteen hours later. On Sunday morning, September 15th, Beulah collapsed at least three times, with Commerford forcing her to stand each time, only to collapse for the last time and die in the parking lot at the Big E. They covered her up with a blue tarp, waited for the crowds to subside, and took her away in a bucket truck.

Unfortunately, Beulah was brought to the Big E with her health clearly compromised, with the intention of using her for the full three-week duration at the Big E. Although I was horrified and saddened by Beulah’s death, at least she is at peace now—because all three of these majestic elephants have been tortured for decades—beaten with bullhooks, confined in cramped spaces with no room to roam free, and forced to complete human acts they were never meant to perform. But what I keep in the forefront of my thoughts is not the countless torture she endured, but that Beulah gave us a gift: she died in the public eye for all of the world to witness, unlike Karen who died in a shroud of secrecy. It was only until after Beulah’s very public death that it was exposed that Karen, the 38-year-old African elephant, died in March 2019 of unknown circumstances.

Now that two of the three elephants have died at the hands of the Commerfords in less then six months, enough is enough. Time is of the essence to release Minnie to an accredited sanctuary where she can roam free with her own kind and live at peace. Minnie needs to be inspected offsite by a professional elephant care specialist where she can finally get the proper care she deserves that Beulah and Karen never received.

I speak now not just for myself but for the hundreds of thousands of animal rights activists [who] are urging the State of Connecticut legislators, DEEP, the Attorney General, the USDA and Connecticut animal organizations—in the state that I have been proud to call home for the past thirty years —to finally join together and get Minnie released to one of the two accredited sanctuaries in the United States. Furthermore, Connecticut needs to stand strong and enforce not only the current animal welfare laws that are currently in place, but to finally pass a law to ban the use of wild animals so they can no longer be used for human entertainment. Beulah and Karen’s deaths  could have prevented. Let’s not willingly allow the last of these three tortured souls to die in vain.

Thank you for your time.

  • Massachusetts residents: call your state representatives and ask them to support H.2934 and S.2028
  • Connecticut residents: call Governor Ned Lamont and your state representative and ask them to publicly call on the Commerford Zoo to send Minnie to an accredited elephant sanctuary.
  • MA residents, CT residents, and people who live outside MA, CT, and/or the US: sign and share our petition urging the Commerford Zoo to release Minnie to an accredited sanctuary. Send a short, polite email to the Commerford Zoo at, urging them to release Minnie to an accredited sanctuary. Help us share the story of Minnie’s plight via social media with the hashtag #FreeTheCommerfordElephants and/or #RumbleForRights.

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