GOSHEN — The Nonhuman Rights Project vowed to continue its legal efforts to free elephants owned by the Commerford Zoo in Goshen Thursday after one, Beulah, died at the Big E Wednesday

In a statement, representatives of the Florida-based organization expressed “deep sorrow and outrage” at the death of their client, Beulah.

“Because of businesses like the Commerford Zoo and the Big E, she never had a chance to live. Under threat of a bullhook, the Commerford Zoo stole from Beulah her freedom and anything resembling a natural existence for an elephant,” project officials said.

“Beulah, as well as the two other Commerford elephants, Karen and Minnie, can be made to live this way because elephants are still considered ‘things’ with no rights: a legal anachronism we are urging the Connecticut courts to remedy,” the statement said.

In multiple suits, the Nonhuman Rights Project has sought a writ of habeas corpus to move the elephants to a wildlife sanctuary. It argues that, considering the elephant’s cognitive abilities and sense of self, the animals should be considered autonomous beings and thus legal persons who cannot be detained under the law.

It has not yet received such a writ. Connecticut judges have dismissed the group’s cases to date.

The group said in its Thursday statement that it believes a second of the three elephants, Karen, also recently died.

“Our fight to secure recognition of our elephants clients’ right to liberty and their release to a sanctuary will continue, in Beulah’s name and in the names of all the elephants before her who have found freedom only in death,” project officials said in the statement. “We will announce next week further actions we are taking, including in the Connecticut courts, to secure justice for Minnie and, we hope, for Karen as well if she is still alive.”

Tim Commerford, co-owner of the Commerford Zoo, has previously described the elephants as members of the family and said they are appropriately cared for.

“If I don’t see them on a daily basis, I’m thinking about them, because I grew up with them all my life,” he said. “They’re family. The animal activists can say what they want about it, but they’re part of our family.”

In a release, the Big E reported that Beulah the elephant had died due to natural causes.

Connecticut Media Group