Lucky the Lonely Elephant
Graham v. San Antonio Zoological Society
The Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the San Antonio Zoo in 2015 under the Endangered Species Act, due to the zoo’s decision to keep an Asian elephant named Lucky socially isolated from any other elephants and inhumane conditions.
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Lucky is an Asian elephant who was at San Antonio Zoo since 1962, after being captured from the wild in Thailand in 1960. She was less than a year old at the time she was taken from her home and family and placed in captivity.
Through her years at the zoo, Lucky had some companions but also went years without any companion. Prior to the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s lawsuit, Lucky had been alone for over two years since her last companion Boo had died in 2013. Asian elephants like Lucky are highly social animals who thrive in company and suffer psychologically and emotionally when they are isolated.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit in 2015, alleging that Lucky’s social isolation and poor living conditions violated the Endangered Species Act. In addition to the social isolation, the lawsuit alleged that Lucky’s habitat lacked sufficient shading and pools during the hot San Antonio, Texas summers, had artificially hard ground, and was not sufficiently large to allow Lucky to roam and get exercise.
In response to the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s lawsuit and ensuing public pressure, the zoo significantly improved Lucky’s habitat and introduced two additional elephants, Nicole and Karen, as companions for Lucky. In 2017, once the aims of the suit had been achieved, the Animal Legal Defense Fund moved to dismiss.
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