Concerned Citizens For Jenny
For Information on Dallas City Council Voting from April 27 to May 9, click on: Take Action For Jenny!
Jenny’s Early Days at the Dallas Zoo
After Roman Schmitt was gored by an elephant (not Jenny), Jenny was sent to live at the Dallas Zoo in 1986. She was ten years old at the time.
Jenny’s life improved very little at the Dallas Zoo. While individual handlers probably cared about her, to the Zoo she remained primarily an asset on a balance sheet. The Zoo is a business, and an elephant is a valuable commodity.
We know something of her early experiences at the Zoo through her publicly available medical record and from blogs such as that of Amanda C. Sandos, Keeper of the Zoo (http://zooleft.blogspot.com/). Here is what Ms. Sandos, a former Zoo employee, wrote on her blog on August 21, 2008 about Jenny’s early years at the Dallas Zoo. Her account is long, but moving and definitely worth reading.
"Jenny has lived at the Dallas Zoo for many years in an exhibit much too small and not at all suited to the largest land mammal. Her exhibit was at least updated since I worked there in the early nineties in an effort to meet the AZA's (American Association of Zoos and Aquariums) pitiful standards for this species. Their so-called standards still rate well below what the species needs for a healthy and long life. Most captive elephants die well before they reach the lifespan of their wild counterparts, and when you take into consideration that wild elephants face poachers, human encroachment, and predation to their young, a shorter life expectancy is pitiful indeed. However, only a very few forward thinking zoos have admitted what the industry has known for years. Elephants should not be kept in zoos. Perhaps the new sanctuaries cropping up around the country will provide what these animals need. It's too soon to tell for sure, but at least they offer something different, something new that comes much closer to giving these massive animals a chance for a longer, healthier captive life. What does all of this have to do with Jenny? Stick with me, I'm getting there, but first I have to give you some background.
Jenny, like many of her zoo counterparts, was taken from the wilds of Africa and brought to the Dallas Zoo through an animal broker. This does not mean that the Dallas Zoo necessarily sent someone out to hunt her down, wrangle her up, and load her into a truck. (There I go defending them again.) The truth is more likely something like this; Dallas put an ad out via the AZA bulletin saying they were interested in acquiring an elephant, and the animal brokers contacted them listing what animals they had available. Jenny was one of two elephants the Dallas Zoo chose from the list. The other animal's name was Moja. I was told they were sisters by one of their keepers, but I have never verified this, and it could just be a romantic story passed down over the years. Regardless, I have often imagined Jenny and Moja huddled together in the back of some truck jarring their way out of the bush after having watched their mother die attempting to defend them. If this isn't truth, it's certainly plausible. I remember the two of them together, tightly bonded and affectionate. I have a photo of them on exhibit leaning side to side while they ate their hay. The day I took the photo, I watched them rub their trunks together and rumble, seeming more contented than I ever expected while standing in their tiny concrete world.
One morning I arrived at the Zoo parking lot to hear a screaming sound rolling down the hill from the large mammal barn. It was followed by clashing and banging. I remember dropping my bag and running up the hill to find out what was happening. Although I was not an elephant keeper, I was close friends with the Animal Care Manager of the Large Mammal Barn, and I often accompanied him to feed Jenny and Moja treats and show my affection to them. Jenny liked to sniff my pockets and my shoes with her trunk and she often leaned against me and rumbled, a greeting elephants use among family members in the wild. Let's just say I'd grown very attached to her. I still have nightmares about the day I first heard Jenny's screams.
When I made it to the top of the hill, I realized Moja was lying dead in her stall. We later found out her heart had stopped due to a fast-acting disease that causes swelling and fluid in the linings around the organ.
As was common practice in those days, Jenny was chained in the stall next to Moja, unable to touch her friend. She would reach her trunk out, coming just shy of touching Moja, straining against her chains. Then, she would beat her head against the wall, scream, kick, and thrash around. A trail of wet was running down her face below both eyes.
The keepers tried to calm her, but they couldn't. Eventually, the Zoo administrators ordered Moja hooked up to a crane and they dragged her out of the building and off exhibit where she wouldn't be seen by the public when they arrived. The whole time, Jenny beat her head, yelling and thrashing until the walls rattled.
Jenny became volatile after that day, prone to uncontrollable rages, lashing out at her keepers. For safety, the Zoo was forced to change their management style with elephants in order to keep all physical contact between Jenny and her keepers to a minimum. Jenny lost the touch of her companion and the touch of her keepers virtually on the same day. She has yet to fully recover. Over the years, the Zoo has given her anti-depressants, even tranquilizers, to calm her. They have also tried several other companion elephants, but Jenny refused most of them.
Sometimes, loud noises would set her off, things like music during special events, loud machinery, strange vehicles, or equipment being used in the area. She has broken the cables in her exhibit with her head more than once during her rages. Eventually, after tireless effort from her keepers, Jenny was introduced to and had finally accepted another African elephant companion. As a result, Jenny is an emotionally troubled elephant and desperately needs special care that she cannot get in any zoo. She suffers from prolonged bouts of crippling depression and has been known to self-mutilate. Jenny also has extensive history of physical problems, including intensely painful and hard to heal feet abscesses, caused by her restricted movement and unnatural confinement in the zoo."
Jenny, leaning against the wall of her Dallas Zoo prison and longing for freedom
The fact that Jenny was systematically abused before she was transferred to the Dallas Zoo is a major reason why Jenny has a history of severe depression and mental illness. But, it is not the only reason why Jenny is disturbed. Jenny has suffered at the hands of the Dallas Zoo, as well.
Jenny's life at the Zoo has been one of deprivation and loss. On multiple occasions, Jenny lost a lone companion, which caused her great grief. And, she has been confined for over two decades in a tiny enclosure that even the Zoo conceded is grossly inadequate for Jenny’s needs, but only after Concerned Citizens for Jenny made it an issue with the media.
Who can say what the final blow was to Jenny's emotional health or when the full weight of the trauma she has endured and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) overwhelmed her? Was it during the years of her abuse at Schmitt’s hands? Or, was it after she transferred to the stressful, unnatural confinement at the Dallas Zoo?
At the very least, the Dallas Zoo is culpable in Jenny's mental illness as it has steadfastly resisted all efforts to get Jenny much needed treatment for her PTSD by blocking her retirement to The Elephant Sanctuary, the only such treatment facility in our hemisphere.
The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is a specialized care center, renowned for expertise in treating and rehabilitating elephants with PTSD. The Zoo cannot provide such care.
We know from Jenny's medical records that the Zoo's response to Jenny's need for mental health care has been to repeatedly drug her, which does not relieve her mental anguish. The Zoo has demonstrated an historic pattern of "chemically restraining" Jenny with Acepromazine or "ACE," a heavy sedative. ACE is simply a chain for her mind, not dissimilar to a chain on her leg. It only restrains her from acting out. Her mental suffering remains unabated.
Jenny has been forced to live in solitary confinement for long periods and has been alone since KeKe died. This is inherently cruel, as female elephants require the company of others of their species. The Zoo waited nearly a full year after KeKe's death to bring in another elephant, which Jenny may or may not accept as they intend to confine her to the same inadequate enclosure as Jenny. Who among us would like to be locked in a closet for life, only to have a stranger shoved in for company?
Jenny is constantly viewed by the public, which is extremely stressful for her. There is even a large glass window in her nighttime barn.
Jenny’s sensory deprived captivity in what amounts to a barren prison cell has certainly prolonged and exacerbated her PTSD. She has not been able relieve her anxious mind through the diversions she would enjoy in roaming freely among forests and hills. She has been denied the healing touch and fellowship that an elephant herd would offer. These are natural comforts that she would have at The Elephant Sanctuary.
Day after day, year after year, Jenny stands in her barren cell and and rocks back and forth, a sign of high stress and distress in elephants.
In frustration, Jenny has broken these steel cables with her head