ALDF Demands Sanctuary for “Lucky,” Lone Elephant at San Antonio Zoo

Posted on April 9, 2015

Zoo Conditions Violate Endangered Species Act, Accreditation Standards

For immediate release:

Megan Backus, ALDF
Melissa Lesniak, Esq.

lucky-the-elephant-article-image-240pxSan Antonio, TX. — Today, the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue the San Antonio Zoo for the mistreatment of its lone remaining Asian elephant, Lucky. This action is backed by the international nonprofit One World Conservation, which has campaigned for Lucky since 2008. Today’s letter alleges that the Zoo is violating the Endangered Species Act by keeping Lucky in conditions that injure her physically and psychologically. Advocates sent the letter on behalf of San Antonio residents requesting that the Zoo retire Lucky to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, where she can be with other Asian elephants in a habitat closer to natural conditions for elephants in the wild. Melissa Lesniak, a San Antonio-based animal welfare and criminal defense attorney, and the international law firm Baker Botts LLP are providing pro bono legal assistance.

Lucky has been at the San Antonio Zoo since 1962. She was captured from the wild in Thailand, in 1960, before she was one year old. She has been kept alone since the death of her companion, Boo, in 2013. She was previously alone for more than two years, after her companion Alport died in 2007, despite the standards set forth by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which require that a female Asian elephant live with at least two Asian elephant companions. Experts worldwide have attested to the highly social nature of elephants. The zoo has controversially stated that Lucky is just “weird” and prefers the company of human beings to other elephants, despite observations from her keepers that she had bonded with another Asian elephant, Ginny, who died in 2004.

Lucky’s cramped, barren enclosure offers too little shade and stimulation, and provides an unnaturally hard surface. She exhibits clear signs of psychological distress, like swaying, head-bobbing, and pacing, a response to the stress of her confinement known to experts as “stereotypic” behavior.

Accompanying the letter is a declaration by Scott Blais, Cofounder and CEO of Global Sanctuary for Elephants, who has overseen the transformation of numerous elephants from harmful confinement to living in social groups in sanctuary. “As an intensely social, highly intelligent, emotionally complex migratory animal, living in essential solitude, in absence of emotional nurturing, with limited psychological stimulation and prison-like confinement, Lucky has suffered incredible harm as a result of her confinement in the San Antonio Zoo,” Blais states in his declaration.

“The San Antonio Zoo has 60 days to comply with the Endangered Species Act,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of ALDF. “The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee has agreed to accept Lucky, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund will pay for her transportation to sanctuary, so the question becomes when is the zoo going to do what’s best for this suffering animal?”

Copies of the letter are available by request.

71 thoughts on “ALDF Demands Sanctuary for “Lucky,” Lone Elephant at San Antonio Zoo

  1. Linda Phelan says:

    This is not how a zoo should treat its animals!

  2. Heather says:

    Free Lucky! Zoo’s are suppose to protect the animals in their care. Let Lucky go to a sanctuary.

  3. Carol Gilbert says:

    Elephants need to be with other elephants.

  4. Bonita says:

    What on earth do you think gives you the right to mistreat this beautiful soul? You are breaking the LAW, which was created to prevent just such abuse! Imagine yourself as a lone species – ALONE!!

  5. Barbara Tarantino says:

    Harrah for freedom.

  6. barbara says:

    Please send her to the sanctuary in Tenn. This would make up if only in part for the miserable life she has led so far. We as humans have the moral responsibility to do better for those who can not defend themselves.

  7. kim says:

    How can we continue to make animals suffer needlessly? Lucky is anything but….Release her to sanctuary NOW and do what you KNOW is right.

  8. judylynn scott says:

    Release this innocent animal now! This is “animal abuse ” and you all should be ashamed of yourselves!

  9. Maria Bonnici says:

    Shame on you, treating Gods beloved animals in this way, plse save her from being sad and miserable this is not a place for her and you know it !!!!! Let her be free with her own kind God is watching what ever you believe, make him happy release her PLEASE.

  10. Anita Anderson says:

    Free Lucky now,please! This is animalabuse

  11. raychel dolen says:

    Please free Lucky from this abuse. The San Antonio community condemns this and stands with ALDF

  12. mridu arya says:

    Please send her to a sanctuary where she can live in peace. Everyone deserves to be happy. What if she was a human who developed psychological problems from confinement. Would we still ignore her and let her suffer alone?

    1. Kathryn DeLongchamp says:

      Unfortunately in the US, we do ignore many sick and suffering people who live in solitary confinement for YEARS in our prisons. It is truly cruel, unusual punishment for man or animal. Free Lucky to sanctuary.

  13. Suzanne Shaps says:

    Do what is right for Lucky, not your bottom line.

  14. Ineke Jansen-Alblas says:

    please free Lucky from this abuse ….

  15. Regina Breed says:

    Let Lucky, have her last years with other elephants, Thank you, Regina

  16. Noelle says:

    YES!! This is fantastic news!! Thank you ALDF, Baker Botts LLP, Melissa Lesniak, and all of Lucky’s supporters out there in San Antonio. The country and the world is watching and supporting Lucky and her advocates!!!

  17. Julie Ryman says:

    Please free Lucky!

  18. Peggy Watson says:

    Let this beautiful animal go. Please. This is wrong. So very, very wrong.

  19. Johannes Michels says:

    Free Lucky!!

  20. Karen Reem says:


  21. Diane Dinsmore says:

    This is so sad. This poor girl needs out now. Please free Lucky!

  22. Kay Muldoon says:

    Please release Lucky to a sanctuary. This is cruelty for this amazing creature. Thank you.

  23. Caren singer. says:

    This is so mean!!!! Please do not exploit animals. You take away their families, you take away their dignity. You abuse them, and you expect people to find pleasure in this? You are crazy.

  24. Kirsti Arndt says:

    The care of this animal animal is soley in your hands, you have failed. Sanctuary for this intelligent lonely and beautiful creature.

  25. ula boyle says:

    Free Lucky, let her live the rest of her precious life in health and happiness in a sanctuary!

  26. Laura Walker says:

    Set him free xoxo

  27. Nancy Moore says:

    Lucky needs to be in a great elephant sanctuary like the one in Tennessee. Please show compassion and allow her to go. Just think what you would want and deserve if you were Lucy and do the right thing. You could have a live video display of Lucy in a great habitat if she were in Tennessee. Then it would be educational and address the plight of elephants around the world and in Africa. Thank you in advance for doing what’s in Lucy’s best interest.

  28. Jim Burris says:

    To make Lucky live in such miserable conditions is like making a child live forever in a closet. “Stupidity won’t kill you, but it can make you sweat”…..need a towel SA zoo officials???

  29. annmarie adcock says:

    Release lucky as loneliness is painful.

  30. angie costanza says:

    Please let Lucky be free to be how an elephant should be. Let her be happy in the company of other elephants. Let her last years be happy ones. She deserves this.

  31. Linda Braydon says:

    Please release Lucky to the animal sanctuary so that she may live out the rest of her days in freedom and peace.

    You’ll be blessed…

  32. Chris says:

    Here in Edmonton, Alberta Canada, we have one lonely elephant. Zoo experts say she is to sick to be moved. Is there any way you can look into Lucy case to see if she is too sick or not.

    Thank you

  33. trish osborn says:

    For goodness sake will this crueltynever end

  34. Shawn Cockrill says:

    Please consider sending Lucky to live with other elephants like nature intended. They are social animals and belong in a pack together not alone like Lucky is.

  35. Kerry Mahoney says:

    Please give this sweet elephant a chance for happiness and peace in a sanctuary where she can live her life out with other loving elephants!

  36. Noel Robin says:

    Lucky’s imprisonment must end. Do the right thing. Let her go to sanctuary.

  37. Megan ONeal says:

    Please allow her to live in a sanctuary with others! They have feelings and emotions. Nature did not intend for humans to interfere with their way of life! Humans destroyed hers, so please allow her to live with other elephants! It’s the least we can do for her

  38. Ellen camaro says:

    We are now living in the year 2015.not the 1800s folks.
    We are in the USA not a third world country.
    Mexico even does better than this. Step up and do the right thing.

  39. Beth Humble says:

    Please send her to a sanctuary where she can happily live her life with other elephants.

  40. Kim Young says:

    San Antonians are ashamed that you continue to refuse to put the welfare of this elephant over your greed. I hope that ALDF is successful. And don’t get any more elephants! You are not equipped to handle them.

  41. Eleni Lawson says:

    Please let this gentle creature go to be with other elephants so he can be happy. It’s not right to keep him all by his lonesome.

  42. melissa irvin says:

    Do what is right and give Lucky a home where he will be happy and his life enriched by companionship.

  43. Celena says:

    Please let Lucky be happy. I am sure you have done your best now please give someone else a try.

  44. Jaki says:

    Lucky needs to be in a great elephant sanctuary like the one in Tennessee. Please show compassion and allow her to go. Just think what you would want and deserve if you were Lucy and do the right thing. You could have a live video display of Lucy in a great habitat if she were in Tennessee. Then it would be educational and address the plight of elephants around the world and in Africa. Thank you in advance for doing what’s in Lucy’s best interest.

  45. Lisa Gold says:

    Please do what is right and in the best interest of all your animals! You should know what is best for all species and abide by the established studies. Do the right thing for Lucky, now! Please don’t wait another day!

  46. Sandy Kauten says:

    Boycot San Antonio Zoo- animal abuse at it finest. Excuses at their best. Spread the word – just like SeaWorld…. These animals do not deserve this treatment. Humans or their own species ? … Ya Right?

  47. sherryy wyse says:

    Please release this elephant to a sanctuary!

  48. Kalyn says:

    please free lucky!!! She deserves happiness she deserves freedom,and if it is possible to give her these things why wouldnt you? No living thing should have to suffer for unknown reasons or for ridiculous purposes. Please find it in your heart to let her go and let her be free.

  49. Paula Mattila says:

    Please release Lucky and send him to live with other elephants!

  50. Jeanie says:

    Please set this lonely elephant into the life of freedom.

  51. Melinda Barnett says:

    Elephants are highly social and intelligent animals. Please allow Lucky to live with other elephants at a sanctuary, where she can find happiness and peace. Her current living situation is cruel and barbaric. How can humans call ourselves advanced when we allow these atrocities to happen for “entertainment?”

  52. heidi heiss says:

    Please free Lucky..have a heart.

  53. Darren Peterie says:

    Any institution that mistreats any living creature should be put out of business. People that support or condone this behavior are just as guilty. Do not support or visit the San Antonio Zoo!

  54. Andrea Steloff says:

    Free Lucky from this heinous treatment from those who should be caring for him & are clearly not!

  55. Irene knight says:

    This elephant has suffered in solitary confinement long enough! Release her to sanctuary now., and let her retire with other Ellie’s.

  56. Please look after elephants

  57. ines kolenko says:

    FREE LUCKY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  58. Karen Schulze says:

    I saw her at this zoo recently. I wanted to jump the fence and hug her. She was playing with a tire on a rope, banging it around senselessly and seemed so bored and sad.

  59. Rachelle Rizz says:

    FREE LUCKY NOW!!!!!!!!!!

  60. Cathryn says:

    free lucky

  61. Julie Tidball says:

    free this beautiful gentle animal. Enough is enough. Show some compassion

  62. joy couch says:

    Wasn’t it San Antoino who beat the elephant for 45 min on camera because she couldnt respond to english commands, I think she was transferred from Germany & didnt know. But they didn’t care or take the time. It may of been the austin zoo. Dosen’t mstter, they do not belong there in the first place

  63. Evelyn says:

    I have been to see her; I weep.

  64. Wendy Ysasi says:

    Every venue that exploits animals for profit should be shut down. Now that circuses are facing that reality, it is time for zoos to do the same. We are fighting hard in Seattle to get Chai and Bamboo to a sanctuary. The political battle is immense and our city leaders are corrupted by the zoo. If it were not for the will of the elephant supporters, nothing will change for these majestic eles.

  65. olivia says:

    Free Lucky!!

  66. Mor says:

    please stop animal cruelty

  67. Marla says:

    If the Elephant Sanctuary is willing to help Lucky (and I think that’s great) why are they not willing to help the desperate Woodland Park Zoo elephants? Please, ES, help the Woodland Park Zoo elephants too. They’re being shipped to Oklahoma and they need a big habitat with other elephants to interest the politicians. Help! Help! Help!

  68. Sheila Keller says:

    Elephants are intelligent, sentient, and social animals. Please allow Lucky to find peace for the rest of her life.

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