The world’s loneliest elephant who spent her life eating bananas with her last tooth has died.
Tragic Hanako had become a cause celebre for animal welfare campaigners desperate to improve her life inside a “concrete prison” in a Japanese zoo.
Although she was born in the wild, Hanako – whose name meant Flower Child – had spent 67 years in captivity in Japan after being presented as an official gift by the Thai authorities.
Hanako was two when she arrived in Japan and last year became of the focus of an online petition, with a half million people calling for her to be freed from her concrete surroundings in Inokashira Park Zoo on the outskirts of Tokyo.
There are calls for her to be repatriated to an elephant sanctuary in the land of her birth.
She never lived to see other elephants or wander around a sanctuary lush with natural habitat.
Zoo officials have confirmed she had been found on her side on Thursday and efforts to raise her back had proven unsuccessful.
The Thai Embassy said in a statement that the death of Hanako, a goodwill Thai ambassador to Japan, had “saddened the people of Thailand and the people of Japan very much”.
Despite the petition – which called on Japan to “give Hanako a real life” – zoo officials did not heed the calls.
A Canadian visitor, whose blog inspired the petition, had said Japan’s views on animal welfare in zoos lag behind a global move toward mimicking the animal’s natural environment.
Ulara Nakagawa, who comes from Vancouver, said she was stunned to see Hanako, thinking for a moment that the elephant was a statue, so grey and still it was in its pen.
She said: “I’ve always had a powerful connection to elephants. My Hanako thing is just one small act that I’m trying to do.”
via Stuart Winter, Express.co.uk | photos via Getty
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