The Elephant in the Room

On Tuesday morning, our town lost a beloved and cherished member of the community…Limba the elephant. She resided in our local zoo, and had lived there since 1989. She was the oldest elephant in captivity. I’ve posted about her before, following the Christmas parade that she walked in

The thing that frustrates me about all these “elephant advocates” saying Limba would have been “better off in a sanctuary”, is that they don’t quit. They just keep saying the same stuff over and over again, stuff that didn’t even apply to Limba. For one, she was fifty years old, way too old to be torn from the loving home she’s know for the past two decades. Way too old to be separated from her human family at the zoo. For two, Limba loved her human family. She wasn’t happy around other elephants, due to her unique circumstances growing up. That’s not the zoo’s fault, that’s how she was. Elephants can have unique personalities, they aren’t all exactly the same.

These advocates don’t stop to allow our town to mourn the loss of Limba. The day that she died, people started calling up the zoo to yell and rage at them. Would you honestly call someone who’s beloved family member had died, just to scream at them? Because Limba was a family member to the entire zoo and a loved member of our community.

I’ve seen and cringed at the things that advocates are posting on Twitter, under the #RIPLimba hashtag. About how she was “forced” to walk in the parade, and ate cigarette butts. By people who weren’t even there. I was at the parade, I didn’t once see Limba eat any cigarette butts – and our streets certainly aren’t littered in filth, thank you very much. Besides, I’m pretty sure she knew the difference between what she could eat and what she couldn’t eat – cigarettes taste horrible, and they say an elephant never forgets.

I generally try to avoid “Internet drama”. I know that everyone has a difference of opinion, I know that my opinion won’t necessarily change someone else’s. But when people are insulting our town, slandering a zoo that does not abuse it’s animals…it fires me up. It pisses me off. It causes me to speak up and say “hey, not cool”, because it’s not. Okay, you care about elephants…that’s great, it really is. I, too, care about elephants – although apparently, me supporting our zoo means I don’t? Then and again, I can think outside the box, I know that zoos do not immediately equal ANIMAL CRUELTY. Some have been guilty of that, and that’s terrible…but just because one zoo did something terrible, doesn’t mean you should condemn ALL zoos. I am able to comprehend unique situations. I agree, sanctuaries are amazing for elephants, and if possible…elephants should live there. But the thing is, Limba has always lived in a zoo. She preferred her human family to an elephant one, and she was old. You wanted the zoo to relocate a sick elephant and take away the only family she had because you think all zoos are cruel?

And I’ve said this much in Twitter disagreements, only to have that person throw at me the Christmas parade. “Well you guys made her march in the parade when she was sick!” Limba was ill, yes, but well enough to walk. Exercise is good for everybody – elephants, humans, dogs alike. Limba frequently took long walks around town, she loved her walks. She loved participating in the parade, and has done so for years. The zoo wouldn’t have let her walk if she was showing extreme amounts of pain and discomfort, and she wasn’t that morning. You would never dare tell a sick person to not exercise, because exercise is good. Doing the things you love when you’re sick is good, it lifts the spirit.

Keep in mind, Limba was the oldest elephant in captivity. The zoo must have done something right, to have kept her healthy and happy for as long as they did. 50 years is a remarkable amount of time to live on earth. She spent 24 years with her zoo family, obviously that’s a bond that cannot and should not be broken.

People have also been accusing “Canada’s climate” of killing Limba. Guys…it’s not that cold here. Currently, we don’t even have any snow. Sure, it gets cold, but never freezeing. Besides, Limba had a heated barn and she was used to the “cold”, and she was fifty.

You’ll notice that I’ve reframed from defending the zoo where Sanook died. Why? Because I am not familiar with that zoo. It’s a tragedy that he died, it really is. My heart breaks for him. But…the thing is…elephants die in the wild all the time. If this had happened at a sanctuary, would it have gotten as much coverage as it did because it happened in a zoo?

To be honest? I’m up in the air about circuses, although I think having animals perform tricks is harmless. I also think it’s another one of those situational cases. Some circuses are cruel and need to be shut down, but there are other acts that are totally fine. I make my dog sit and stay for a dog treat, is that considered a form of animal abuse now? Every creature on earth preforms in some way, even humans. We’re all doing it right now.

What I believe we need to do (and this is my personal opinion, which I’m entitled to – so hold the pitch forks) is stop the poaching of elephants and the ivory trade. Elephants are not safe in the wild. We need to change that. Instead of taking up arms against zoos that are doing their best to keep a species from going extinct with their breeding programs and care, we need to take arms against the real danger to elephants.

You can believe that wild animals shouldn’t belong in zoos – and I will agree with you to an extent.I can tell you right now that our zoo does not abuse the animals that they have, nor have they ever. I can tell you that Limba was extremely happy and she also was a unique case. Let her rest in paradise and let the zoo mourn her loss, as she was family to them.

The only reason why I’m writing this post is because I’m tired of trying to explain my thought process in 140 characters. It’s just not possible. I know this likely won’t get the advocates off my back, in fact it will regrettably fuel them, but I wanted a chance to say my piece anyway.


Rest in Paradise, Limba. You were a loved member of our community.


About J.C. Hannigan

25. Mother. Wife. Lover of words. Weaver of stories. My first book, Collide, is available in e-book for Amazon Kindle and Kobo.
This entry was posted in blogging, musings, personal, random, writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Elephant in the Room

  1. I am big on animal rights, and circuses get the majority of my wrath, because the animals do not have a big free area to roam and they are constantly being moved around. It’s not the training or putting on shows that bother me. With zoo’s, I am on the fence. If it is a good zoo, that takes good care of the animals, give them plenty of space and natural habitats, I have no problem. It’s the ones that don’t do that, that I have major problems with. But an animal simply dying is not automatically the fault of the zoo. It may be, it may not be. Here in Florida, people get all riled up about Sea World, Busch Gardens, and Animal Kingdom at Disney. But again, I don’t have a problem with those place. They take excellent care of the animals. They rehabilitate many animals and then release them back into the wild. And if they can’t be released, THEN they keep them and care for them. If it weren’t for GOOD, RESPONSIBLE zoos, our children would not see the animals close up and gain an interest in caring for them, working for them, or being an activist for them.

    As you said, this was the oldest elephant in captivity. The zoo must have done something correct. To those haters, next time there is a sick animal, let’s see you nurse it back to health.

    • Jess says:

      Thank you for your thoughts Vicky! That’s exactly how I am about everything. If the zoo takes great care of their animals, and they can’t be relocated or introduced back into the wild – so be it. Limba was unique, she preferred humans to elephants…and she was very old. She was extremely happy where she was.

      But then you hear things about this elephant Sunder ( and I cannot believe “activists” are focusing on our small town, our zoo with their hateful messages. Calling the zoo to harass and yell at them, holding protests outside the zoo while we all try to mourn the loss of a very loved animal in this community. Not. Cool.

      Last summer, a bunch of them took photos of anyone entering the zoo, yelled insults at them and posted their photos all over the Internet.

      I feel as though there is a “mob mentality” in the activist community, at least here – given all the harassment they cause the zoo and anyone visiting it.

      The zoo has never mistreated it’s animals, so it’s very frustrating that every community function continuously be invaded by them. I want to take my boys to the vigil on Sunday, so they can say goodbye to Limba, but I honestly fear that they’ll show up. Hopefully, they have a shred of humanity and empathy left and will allow us to have our PEACEFUL memorial.

  2. OK, I’m not sure where you live, but I live north of Toronto, and it’s freezing here right now!

    • Jess says:

      It’s cold today, yes, but our winters tend to be more mild closer to Toronto. North of Gravenhurst is when the temperatures drop significantly, I lived in North Bay for 2 years and it made winters here look almost warm.

      Limba did like snow. I’m not saying all elephants liked snow or the harsher weather, but Limba did. Plus she didn’t spend every waking moment in it, she had a heated barn 😉

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