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Hanako, Known as the World's Saddest Elephant, Dies After 60 Years of Lonely Captivity

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For more than 60 years Hanako trudged around her enclosure at Inokashira Park Zoo in Tokyo, Japan, without trees, grass or any companions. That loneliness has now come to an end.

According to The Dodo, Hanako died on Thursday at the age of 69.

The sad conditions of the elephant’s life came to light recently, after a visitor to the zoo wrote a blog post about the cruel and archaic treatment Hanako had to endure. The post gained international attention, along with videos of the elephant glumly swaying back and forth, but the zoo refused to take action.

Instead of releasing the aging animal to a sanctuary, the zoo met with an animal welfare expert about changes they could make down the line.

But before any of those changes could be made, Hanako was found collapsed in her cage. Keepers tried to help the elephant, but she died a few hours after being found.

It was the final chapter to a life of solitude for this social animal. At just 2 years old, Hanako was moved to Japan’s Ueno Zoo in 1947, and then sent to Inokashira Park a few years later. Without enrichment tools or other elephants to keep her happy and active, Hanako became prone to violent outbursts against staff members. As a result, she was chained up for a portion of her life.

After years of never knowing the joy of friendship or the simple pleasure of the grass on her trunk, Hanako has passed away, hopefully to a more peaceful and beautiful place.