Queen's trunk call gives depressed Susi new home


Susi the elephant is sad and bored. She paces to and fro in her small pen in Barcelona Zoo, swinging her head and trunk anxiously from side to side. She has even started eating her own faeces in stress and frustration.

Born free in Africa 36 years ago, Susi has been pining since Alicia, her female companion in captivity for more than six years, was put down a year ago suffering from intestinal colic. But this week an unlikely fairy godmother, in the shape of Spain's Queen Sofia, came to the rescue and transformed the plight of the bereaved elephant into an affair of the state. She has asked Barcelona's town hall, which runs the zoo, to find Susi a happier home.

Queen Sofia is known for her fondness for animals – she loathes bullfights – and her surprise intervention, reported in yesterday's El País newspaper, came in response to a desperate appeal from animal rights groups.

The Foundation for the Adoption, Sponsorship and Defence of Animals said it wrote to the royal palace on 12 February saying that Susi's life may be in danger if she continues to live at the zoo. Two weeks later, the royal palace replied, saying the Queen "regretted" the situation, and that they were writing to Barcelona's city hall. "The Queen is very sympathetic to animals," the foundation's president Carla Cornella said. "She wants to know what is the best situation for Susi."

Susi's behaviour testifies to her depression and boredom, according to animal rights group, Libera a Susi (Free Susi). She pesters visitors for food, consuming chorizo, crisps, plastic bags and whatever else her trunk scoops up. Because elephants are naturally vegetarian, this causes constant digestive problems. Gastrointestinal problems are among the most common cause of death of elephants in zoos, Free Susi says.

The group says that Susi, who came to the zoo in 2002, lives alone in a 1,000 square-metre concrete compound, while the European Association of Zoo and Aquariums recommends that elephants should live in herds, and in spaces of at least two hectares (five acres). "Susi is not well," Ms Cornella said. "If she stays there, she'll die."

The zoo says Susi is fine, and that it plans to settle her in a hectare of more natural habitat with a family of five or six other African elephants for company.

But the Free Susi association says she needs to be in a much more open environment than a zoo if she's to recover from her depression and live out her natural span of up to 70 years.

Campaigners believe zoo authorities might meanwhile bring in Yoyo, an African elephant who lives in the semi-wild near Tarragona, west of Barcelona, to keep Susi company, but they fear that the less institutionalised Yoyo might attack her.

The group has launched a campaign to move both animals to a reservation, either in Spain or abroad, with a habitat similar to their African origins, where they might roam free.

The Portuguese Nobel prize-winning novelist Jose Saramago has also visited Susi and taken up her cause. "She is dying of sorrow," says the writer whose latest novel The Elephant's Journey, about an elephant who travels across medieval Europe, is charging up the bestsellers' list.

Barcelona Zoo received more than a million visitors last year, and is the Catalan capital's most popular attraction after the Picasso museum. Susi has become the zoo's favourite animal, earning the kind of mass affection once showered on Snowflake, the world's only known albino gorilla, who died in Barcelona in 2003.

The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album