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About

Since 2015, we’ve been involved in the Voices for Asha campaign, a campaign in combination with In Defense of Animals and cee4life, fighting to retire the African elephant, Asha, from the Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia. All images copyright of Barbara Baker.

Brief History

ORIGIN: Zimbabwe

WILD-CAUGHT: < 1-year-old

BORN: ~1983

ARRIVED AT NATURAL BRIDGE ZOO: 1985

ALONE: Since 1992

 

Major Issues

Alone

Asha has been alone since the death of her companion, Teaha, in 1996. As a highly social species, this is a huge detriment to her psychological well-being.

Forced to Give Rides

During the open season, Asha is forced to give rides daily. This poses both a danger to the public and to her health. Elephant rides are known to cause skeletal issues.

Inadequate Fencing

Asha’s fence is entirely inadequate, consisting of electric wire surrounded by a weakly constructed public barrier that is only approximately 4 feet high.

No Grazing

Asha’s exhibit is covered in a layer of sand and other soil native to the Virginia area with little ability to graze like she would in a more natural setting.

Chained

During the winter Asha is confined and chained in her barn. She also may be chained overnight, outside during other months.

Psychological Issues

Asha has been shown exhibiting stereotypic behavior, a direct indicator of the stress caused by her environment and isolation.

Lack of Space

Asha’s exhibit is less than an acre. Lack of space can lead to problems with foot and joint health, the leading cause of death in captive elephants.

Lack of Shade

During the summer, Asha has little relief from the heat. There is little shade, and no facilities built in to make up for this.

Extreme Temperatures

Asha is exposed not only to the extreme heat of the summer, but during the winter has little respite from the cold, chained down in a concrete barn.

No Pool

There is no pool available for Asha to wallow in, as her species needs in the wild to cool off. This exposes her skin to problems in the summer.

Food Contamination

Natural Bridge Zoo has been cited for hay that was contaminated with bird feces, feathers, and dead pigeons.

Rodent Infestation

The zoo has also been cited for numerous, ongoing problems with rodent infestation, which can lead to a number of health and contamination issues.

More Facts

COMPANIONS: 

Since 1985, only two other elephants have resided at the Natural Bridge Zoo with Asha, both having died at the zoo.

IDA WORST ZOO LISTS:

#2 in 2015

#1 in 2014

Asha was born in Zimbabwe in 1983. After her mother was culled, Asha was wild-caught sometime in 1984. From there, she was brought to the United States and sold off to the Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia, where she has resided since her arrival there in August 1985.

  • Female, African elephant, Teaha, arrived as a companion for Asha in 1992
  • One of the elephants killed a baby camel that was placed in the elephant exhibit in 1994
  • Teaha died in 1996
  • Asha has been alone since the death of Teaha
  • In total, Asha has potentially been alone for 26 years

Our Work on the Campaign

One World Conservation became aware of the situation with Asha in January 2015 after In Defense of Animals asked that we become involved with the people working on the ground. In reviewing this case, we have decided to launch a full campaign in combination with In Defense of Animals, later bringing in cee4life as well. Actions so far have included:

  • Launch of the Voices for Asha website | NOTE: Currently under construction!
  • Collaborating with groups on the ground
  • The creation of T-shirts to help raise funds for the group on the ground
  • Creation of Facebook Page for Asha
  • CLOSED: Promoting the original petition for Asha
  • Senior executives of OWC conducted an observation of the Natural Bridge Zoo in July 2015
  • Filed a report on the findings of the July 2015 observation
  • Met with Delegate Sam Rasoul in July 2015 to discuss Asha and a potential bullhook ban
  • CLOSED: Created a petition in support of Delegate Sam Rasoul’s HB 302 to ban bullhook use in Virginia
  • Networked with affiliates to push support for the HB 302 bill