For Immediate Release: September 22, 2014

(Fort Meade, FL) — “Lydia,” an Asian elephant who was born in the wild in Thailand but spent her entire life in the circus, died in May 2013 in rural Fort Meade, Florida. Her death came to light only recently as a result of a public records request from the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF).

For the last three decades of her life, Lydia was owned by David Tesch, a circus elephant handler.

Beginning in 1998, Lydia spent the summer months performing and giving rides at York’s Wild Kingdom in York Beach, Maine. Lydia “retired” after the 2011 season.

Elephants are intelligent and social animals. In the wild, female elephants stay with their mothers and with their family group for their entire lives. Sadly, Lydia was forced to live alone, traveling the country performing at small venues and with disreputable circuses. Lydia was denied the opportunity to socialize or build relationships with other elephants.

Lydia was approximately 66 years old at the time of her death.

“It is sad that such a magnificent animal, a member of an endangered species, can die alone and unnoticed in a backyard in Polk County,” said ARFF Campaigns Coordinator Nick Atwood. “Lydia’s death heightens our concerns that other solitary elephants in Florida could fall through the cracks after a life of exploitation.”

Currently there are at least three female elephants in Florida living a solitary existence. These elephants deserve retirement to a sanctuary where they could find freedom from constant travel and an opportunity for normal social relationships.

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