I don’t get to write much about animals, but after learning about an old Asian elephant called Hanako, I felt compelled to do so.
Hanako has lived in captivity in Japanese zoos for the past 61 years, in what seems to be harsh conditions. There is no grass, no trees, or any other elephants in her enclosure at the Inokashira Park Zoo in Tokyo.
She is completely surrounded by concrete, and only concrete.
“Totally alone in a small, barren, cement enclosure with absolutely NO comfort or stimulation provided, she just stood there almost lifeless — like a figurine,” Ulara Nakagawa, a visitor at the zoo, is quoted as saying by Express.
See more on Hanako’s conditions in this Kyodo News report done in 2014:
Hanako is the oldest living elephant in Japan.
An online petition has been started calling for Hanako’s release, so she can live out the rest of her life at a sanctuary with other elephants. So far, more than 49,000 signatures have been collected.
Hanako is currently 68 years old, and was sent to Japan from Thailand in 1949. She was the first elephant to arrive in Japan after World War II, and was originally sent to Ueno Zoo, but was transferred to Inokashira Park Zoo in 1954 where she has remained. In 1956, she trampled a drunk man who entered here area to death, and four years later a zoo keeper was found dead in her den, reported Japan Times.
Due to the loss of most of her teeth, the 2.8 ton elephant is now fed a special diet. She has digestive issues and constipation as a result, reports Japan Times. Given her age, she’s begun to lose her hearing, and has trouble sleeping.
In a perfect world, I’d say that perhaps it’s time to let Hanako do what elephants do best — roam free. But it may be too late for that.