A number of celebrities, including vegan activist Evanna Lynch and animal rights activist Joanna Lumley, are calling upon Johannesburg Zoo in South Africa to rehome their 39-year-old female elephant, Lammie, who lives alone after the death of her lifelong companion in September.
Campaigners are asking the zoo to have a heart this Valentine’s Day, by agreeing to relocate her to a rewilding sanctuary who has offered Lammie a permanent home. The campaign is being led by Humane Society International (Africa), the EMS Foundation and the Elephant Reintegration Trust.
A petition with 280,000 signatures will be presented to the zoo along with Valentine’s cards, urging the zoo to transfer Lammie to a location better suited to her. A letter from 13 of the world’s most renowned elephant conservationists will also be presented.
Commenting on the situation for Lammie, Joanna Lumley said: “Loneliness is more of a prison that the walls of Lammie’s zoo enclosure. She belongs running wild with other elephants. Please let her go, Johannesburg Zoo.”
Johannesburg Zoo are resisting the requests to relocate her, simply suggesting they acquire another elephant. Whilst this may ease Lammie’s loneliness, it means another animal in captivity and not where they belong, and four elephants minimum must be grouped together, according to several zoo associations.
Lammie’s mental health is the main concern for campaigners, as she is spending her days alone in her enclosure without companions and without enrichment.
Audrey Delsink, wildlife director of Humane Society International, said: “Elephants are highly intelligent, extremely social, sentient beings with complex family structures and bonds that last a lifetime.
“Now that Lammie has lost her companion, she is in desperate need of a happier existence and the chance to live out her years with other elephants. There is a rewilding sanctuary ready and waiting to offer Lammie a home where she can express normal elephant behaviours and thrive emotionally and physically with a group of elephants who would become her new family.
“Acquiring another elephant would simply be repeating the cycle of suffering all over again, and seeing elephants in a sterile environment provides no educational value at all.”