By Meg McIntire

In a vast sea of puppies in Rudolph sweaters and cats in Santa hats on social media this past holiday season, it was a relatively simple picture of an elephant standing next to a small tree decorated with dried fruit and snacks that stopped me dead in my scrolling tracks and gave me hope for the New Year.  The picture of Nosey the elephant had been posted by The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and depicted Nosey celebrating her first Christmas in the way she deserved.

I’ve been following the story of Nosey for a few years, checking updates on the main Nosey Facebook page, and reading tweets about her whereabouts and conditions. Viewing this picture of her finally happy and in a place where no harm could come to her made my heart glow.

Nosey’s life has been one filled with pain and suffering ever since she was captured from the wild and sold to her owner, Hugo “Tommy Liebel” in 1988. The HuffPost reports that at his hands, Nosey has been tortured by “electric shock, bullhooks, sledgehammers, shovels and starvation.” Additionally, “in 2004 she turned on her trainer in desperation, ramming and tossing him, and causing head injuries that required stitches.”

In addition, she heartbreakingly was never allowed to make contact with another elephant.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2014, however, that Nosey’s plight truly came into the national  spotlight. An animal activist filmed Nosey at the Great Lakes Medieval Faire limping and chained tightly in a filthy enclosure while being forced to give Hugo’s customers rides on her back.  The video was shared on YouTube and quickly sparked public outrage in the form of protests, petitions, undercover investigations, and created a community of close-knit activists on social media.  

For years, these activists attempted to free her legally from her abusive owner and painful life, but the process was slow and many who were working on her behalf had to resort to simply following and documenting Nosey’s struggles.

But this past November, Nosey was finally rescued after being spotted behind a truck repair shop in rural Moulton, Alabama, chained tightly by two legs, standing in a deep pile of feces and a puddle of urine, apparently without access to shelter, hay, or water. She was seized and sent to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee while Liebel has been arrested and is charged with animal cruelty.

After a tumultuous and difficult year, we at Friends of Animals are cheering the rescuers, animal advocates and team at The Elephant Sanctuary who have been able to give Nosey a chance at a new life.

But even now, as Nosey rests and regains her strength at the sanctuary, her freedom isn’t guaranteed. It weighs heavily on the outcome of the current lawsuit. The only sure way to stop abuse of elephants like Nosey is to boycott the animal entertainment industry, continue to shine a public light on the abuse, and work to ensure that elephants aren’t stolen from their natural habitats. These are are issues we fearlessly fight for at Friends of Animals. We fought  the abusive Ringling Bros. circus and succeeded in bringing down the “worst show on earth.”  The Primarily Primates animal sanctuary in Texas managed by Friends of Animals is another example of how we work toward caring for abused  animals. Many of its 350 animals have been rescued from the entertainment industry.

In this new year, we are hopeful Nosey and all animals tethered to the entertainment industry have a real chance to completely break free of any cruelty.

Meg McIntire is the creative force behind FoA’s social media and websites and is a contributing writer for Action Line. She is also news junkie and loves writing about politics, tech trends, rescue stories and pet parenthood.