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Patty’s story

By Courtney Fern

Three years old. $6,000. ⁣

That’s the age Patty was when she was torn from her herd in India along with other calves, and that’s the amount the Bronx Zoo paid for her in 1973. It’s half a century later, and Patty remains in captivity in the “Wild Asia Monorail” elephant exhibit. ⁣

A screenshot of an archived news story that includes a photo of four baby elephants extending their trunks through a cage to reach toward a zoo keeper. The headline is: 4 Indian elephants Go on Show at Bronx Zoo's Tropical Asia Complex
A newspaper article that celebrated the elephants’ arrival at the Bronx Zoo.

Young elephants are as emotionally reliant on their families as we are, so the trauma isn’t hard to imagine. And this was only the beginning. ⁣

A screenshot of a newspaper article about the birth of Patty's son.
A screenshot of a newspaper article about the birth of Patty’s son.

In 1981, Patty gave birth. The Bronx Zoo named her baby Astor. He died before his 2nd birthday from the elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus.⁣

A screenshot of a newspaper article about Patty's son's death.
In 2002, Patty and her companion Maxine fatally attacked an elephant named Grumpy. Grumpy was one of a group of wild-born elephant calves imported to the US (all were named after the dwarves in Snow White). This awful event wasn’t surprising given the “zoochosis” elephants can develop from being confined in zoos where they have no space and no choice. ⁣⁣

Shortly after, the Bronx Zoo separated Grumpy’s companion Happy from the other elephants for her own protection and began claiming Happy doesn’t get along with other elephants. In 2018, the Bronx Zoo euthanized Maxine, who had cancer. Now Happy and Patty, the only two surviving Bronx Zoo elephants, are each held alone in the exhibit.⁣

Elephants are deeply social beings who form lifelong bonds and need herds to thrive. Studies show captive elephants experience brain damage because they’re confined to small, barren environments. In sanctuaries, elephants with traumatic histories can heal and thrive, regaining their peace, dignity, and freedom to roam after years of being on display. ⁣

What we’re doing to help #FreePatty and #FreeHappy⁣

A new bill–the first of its kind in the US–would end elephant captivity in New York City, and we’re proud to have helped develop it. Intro 963 has 11 cosponsors so far. If you’re a New York City resident, make sure you’re subscribed to our email list, which we’ll be using in the coming weeks to send out actions you can take to help ensure passage of this bill. No matter where you live, you can help by sharing Patty’s heartbreaking story on social media with the hashtag #ElephantFreeNYC. Thank you for caring about elephants!

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