BRITISH COLUMBIA

Ulara Nakagawa, Vancouver Woman, Petitions To Free Elephant From 'Concrete Prison'

02/05/2016 03:27 EST | Updated 02/05/2016 03:59 EST

VANCOUVER — A Vancouver woman's impassioned blog post about an elderly elephant living in a Japanese zoo has inspired an online petition that has garnered nearly 380,000 signature urging better care for the creature.

Ulara Nakagawa wrote that the 69-year-old elephant, called Hanako, is living in "shameful conditions'' after viewing it at the Inokashira Park Zoo in Tokyo.

Nakagawa says she was shocked and dismayed to see the animal stand almost lifeless like a figurine while hundreds of thousands of global tourists visit.

She says a Japanese magazine article describes Hanako as the country's oldest living captive elephant, which has lived in a cement enclosure since being transported from Thailand in 1949.

Nakagawa says she's hoping people who signed the petition will donate money to fund an independent assessment of the elephant's health, and then move it to an enhanced enclosure or wildlife sanctuary.

Zoo deputy director Hidemasa Hori has acknowledged the park is not fully equipped to keep an elephant, but believes the animal is too old to be moved safely.

Chris Draper of the Born Free Foundation says if a move is too risky then Hanako's space should be enlarged and a heated pool and sand piles be added to the elephant's enclosure.

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