Help free Shankar from decades of solitary confinement in the Delhi Zoo

Help free Shankar from decades of solitary confinement in the Delhi Zoo

5 October 2021
Petition to
Shri Dharam Deo Rai (Director, National Zoological Park (NZP)) and
Signatures: 2,01,517Next Goal: 3,00,000
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Why this petition matters

Petition in other languages: Hindi , Italian, French

Who is Shankar?

In 1998, a 26 month-old male African elephant was presented as a diplomatic gift by Zimbabwe to India. He was named 'Shankar' after India’s 9th President Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma. Shankar, now over 26 years old, has lived his entire life in the Delhi zoo (National Zoological Park, NZP). Since 2001 when his sole companion Vambai passed away, Shankar has lived in solitary confinement. 

Shankar's Physical and Mental Condition

Shankar is chained for 17 hours of the day and does not have adequate space to move around when he is let out. Much like humans, elephants are social beings and suffer neurological distress when put in solitary confinement. Shankar constantly demonstrates stereotypical behaviour like swaying and head-bobbing, a key sign of distress (see video link). In fact, Shankar's aggressive behaviour has necessitated the zoo authorities to permanently close the viewing pathway since he could be a danger to visitors. In a response to our RTI in July 2021, the Delhi Zoo confirmed that not only has it made NO effort in the past, it has NO FUTURE PLANS to release Shankar to a sanctuary or any other location where he can have the companionship of other African elephants. This just fills us with sadness and despair for Shankar who is clearly in duress. If Shankar’s solitary captivity does not end immediately, he will meet the same fate as Vambai who died in the zoo.

Our Demand

We need the Delhi Zoo (NZP) to transfer Shankar to be released to a wildlife refuge or sanctuary where there are ample African elephants. The NZP director  has a unique opportunity to set an example to every other zoo in India and to the world so that not only Shankar but all other captive elephants can have a better future.

Steps undertaken by YFA

  1. Letter sent to Delhi Zoo on October 4, 2021. Read here
  2. Letter sent to Prime Minister's Office on November 16, 2021. Read here
  3. Having received no response, we filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Delhi High Court that was heard on January 3, 2022. The Hon'ble High Court admitted our case and also directed the Respondents to consider our representation.
  4. Our court hearing took place on July 6, 2022 (read update). The court ordered Delhi Zoo, CZA and AWBI to conduct an inspection of Shankar and his living conditions by the next court hearing fixed for August 31, 2022.
  5. On August 31, 2022 the Delhi zoo was yet to file the inspection report in the court and hence the new court date of September 20, 2022 was set. 
  6. In the September 20, 2022 hearing, the CZA and AWBI had not added their inspection report on an affidavit hence the court gave them 2 weeks to do so and 2 weeks to us to file a response. 

We really hope you will join hands with us to help Shankar earn his freedom and have a chance to live a normal elephant life with his own kind. Please sign our petition and share it widely.

Thanks and regards

Nikita Dhawan and Nandika Karunakaram

(On Behalf of Youth For Animals)


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Hashtags for our campaign

Main- #FreeShankarDelhiZoo

Others- #FreeShankar #ShankarforSanctuary #Shankar #HaathiMereSaathi

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Signatures: 2,01,517Next Goal: 3,00,000
Support now