by Jennifer Best. Originally published in The Fresno Bee.
If you visit the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, you may see three elephants, standing in a yard scattered with rocks and logs. Two of the elephants, Nolwazi and her daughter Amahle, are pregnant. Mabu, transported to the zoo last year, is the father. The truth is, you’re not seeing the true nature of elephants at this or any zoo. You’re seeing pawn pieces, moved from zoo to zoo for one reason — to maximize breeding opportunities so additional captive elephants are born, trapping them in an endless and crushing cycle that does nothing to save their wild-born counterparts.
That’s why on Aug. 30, Friends of Animals filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in a lawsuit brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project that seeks the elephants’ right to liberty and release to an accredited elephant sanctuary.
The case is the first of its kind in California, and the elephants desperately need this relief. Friends of Animals has a deep history with Nolwazi and Amahle. They were born in the wild in what was then Swaziland (now Eswatini). Three U.S. zoos, with the cooperation of Swaziland’s Big Game Parks and with the approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, took these two elephants, along with 15 other African elephants born in the wild.