Elephants Mikki and Punch will soon be leaving the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky – after decades of lonely captivity – and moving to a spacious refuge to live out the rest of their long lives with other elephants.

This is colossal news for the gentle giants. Both elephants were stolen from their herds in the wild when they were young and have since been living in unnatural conditions.

Lady Freethinker reported on African elephant Mikki and her tragic experiences in the zoo’s breeding program when the Louisville Zoo reappeared on In Defense of Animal’s (IDA’s) annual list of Worst Zoos for Elephants — a list the Louisville Zoo made three years in a row in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Mikki has suffered the loss of two calves and years of stressful, invasive artificial insemination at the zoo. These experiences are tragically common for elephants exploited at zoos. 

With this move, Mikki will never again be subjected to traumatic breeding programs. She will also finally be around other African elephants her age. Likewise, Punch will enjoy the companionship of other Asian elephants.

News that Mikki and Punch would finally be released to a sanctuary was welcomed by IDA, who applauded the zoo for acknowledging what elephant welfare experts have been saying for years: zoos cannot meet elephants’ complex needs.

“Wild elephants typically live in herds comprised of multi-generational, related females and young males, led by an experienced matriarch,” the Louisville Zoo said in a statement. “Relocation to The Elephant Sanctuary ensures lifelong companionship for Mikki and Punch in a safe, expansive setting.”

Both Mikki and Punch will be moving from a cramped enclosure just over .5 acres to a more appropriate home of over 3,000 acres. They will be free to run for miles, splash in water, explore, play, and engage in natural elephant behaviors out of the view of the public.

Punch and Mikki are expected to move to their new home in 2025. The sanctuary is located in Tennessee and both elephants need to be comfortable entering a transportation container to make the journey. Their caretakers have already begun the process.

Lady Freethinker celebrates the companionship and freedom Mikki and Punch will enjoy in their new home and urges the Louisville Zoo to never house elephants again.