Anyone can guess if Patty and Happy, the 50-something elephants who have been long-time residents of the Bronx Zoo, are actually happy. But the City Council, apparently having solved New York’s human problems, has moved on to the pachyderms and is now chewing on a bill that would force the two out of the Bronx by establishing a minimum 15-acre habitat for the creatures.
Anyone who still advocates the free killing of elephants for their ivory is cruel. Anyone who wants to keep them in cages or insist on their participation in circuses is, frankly, a fool. They are not here to entertain us; they are sensitive and intelligent creatures that deserve dignified treatment.
But as the state supreme court has made clear, elephants, chimpanzees and dolphins do not have habeas corpus rights “Sorry, they’re only for humans!” — and this particular zoo is run by professionals who care about animals and spend their lives trying to get others to do the same. They have been caring for Patty and Happy for decades and have already announced that they will be the last elephants to live there.
It may make Councilwoman Shahana Hanif feel good to sever those ties and force these two souls onto trucks to head to a sanctuary somewhere, but moving 17,000 pounds of elephants to a sanctuary is no easy feat. Is immensely complex for people and stressful for creatures.
Maybe Happy and Patty find it all worth it when they reach a sanctuary where they have a little more space to roam, but we can’t ask them about the trade-offs. Nor can we ask the gorillas at the Bronx Zoo if they think they deserve freedom, if that’s what they want to call it, in the first place.
Meanwhile, thousands and thousands of others intelligent mammals called cattle live and die in the five boroughs. By some measures, pigs are smarter than elephants. Does the City want to release all the Babes, Wilburs and Porkys?