On 22nd May 2024, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), a civil rights organisation in the US dedicated solely to securing rights for nonhuman animals, filed an opening brief in the Colorado Supreme Court, urging it to reverse a District Court ruling that denied five elephants a hearing on the lawfulness of their imprisonment in the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (CMZ). 

In December 2023, the District Court ruled that Jambo, Kimba, LouLou, Lucky, and Missy, African elephants kept at the zoo, cannot invoke the protections of habeas corpus because they’re not human. Habeas corpus is used to bring a prisoner or other detainee before the court to determine if their imprisonment or detention is lawful. This ruling came about because, in June 2023, NhRP filed a habeas petition seeking recognition of the elephants’ fundamental right to bodily liberty, followed by their release to an elephant sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. Now, the NhRP continues to advocate for the elephants at the Colorado Supreme Court, trying to reverse the District Court’s decision. 

Dr. Bob Jacobs, a former professor of neuroscience at Colorado College who has studied the neurological harm of zoo captivity on elephants, is one of the experts who submitted declarations in support of the elephants’ right to bodily liberty and release to a sanctuary.

Jake Davis, the NhRP’s lead attorney in Colorado, said,It’s the judicial branch’s responsibility to tend to the common law to achieve justice. It’s not justice to deny autonomous beings the right to liberty simply because of their species membership. As even the District Court acknowledged, the science is clear that our elephant clients are autonomous beings who are suffering immensely and would be better off at a sanctuary. The Colorado courts either care about autonomy, as protected by the historic common law writ of habeas corpus, or they don’t.”

Jambo, Kimba, LouLou, Lucky, and Missy were born in the wild in Africa, taken from their families when they were babies, and imported to the US in the 1970s and 1980s.

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Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.