A lawsuit has been filed by a nonhuman rights group against the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo seeking to remove five elephants from the facility, claiming that the animals suffer chronic stress and health problems because of their captivity and environment.
The Nonhuman Rights Project filed the lawsuit Wednesday in El Paso County District Court seeking legal rights for the elephants, according to an NhRP news release. The case is the first lawsuit filed in Colorado by the group.
Elephants Jambo, Kimba, LouLou, Lucky, and Missy were born in the wild in Africa, taken from herds as babies and imported to the United States in the 1970s and 1980s, the release said.
“From the moment their adult family members were likely killed in front of them and they were sold off to be put on display and put to work in circuses and zoos, these elephants’ lives have consisted of one trauma after another,” said NhRP attorney Jake Davis. “We can see this today in the stereotypic behavior, indicative of brain damage and chronic stress, all the elephants have exhibited. Despite its $13.5 million renovation, the simple truth is that the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo cannot meet Jambo, Kimba, LouLou, Lucky, and Missy’s complex physical, social, and emotional needs. No zoo can.”
The lawsuit seeks to have the elephants taken from the zoo and released to a sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
The elephants display signs of “stereotypic behavior,” including rocking, swaying, and head bobbing, according to the release.
“These elephants deserve much better, and keeping them in captivity in this zoo is a sorry reflection on the human condition,” said Bob Jacobs, a former professor of neuroscience at Colorado College. “I wouldn’t want to be confined to an austere, barren environment for a week, let alone a lifetime. But that’s what these elephants must endure, leaving them vulnerable to chronic stress and chronic health problems, including deleterious effects to their very sophisticated brains.”
Jacobs has studied the neurological harm of captivity on elephants, the release said. The lawsuit describes the elephants’ life at the zoo as “unlawful imprisonment.”
The zoo responded Thursday evening to the lawsuit, saying in part, in a written statement: “We exist to advance animal welfare and conservation.”
Zoo officials said that the group filing the lawsuit is known for “wasting credible organizations’ time and money.”
“Our elephant care team knows the needs of our elephants and tailors specific care and exercise programs and tends to each elephant based on their preferences,” the zoo statement said. “Suggesting they’d be better off at a sanctuary is simply incorrect. Knowing what’s considered best for elephants in general does not equal knowing how to give Jambo, Missy, LouLou, Kimba or Lucky the care they need.”
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