Letter to the editor, Toronto Star


The following is the text of a letter I recently sent to the editor of the Toronto Star after reading an article that appeared in the April 20, 2012, issue of that newspaper. View news article, here.

I have read your April 20, 2012 article titled, “The Toronto Zoo’s departing elephants have squashed its accreditation. Thanks, Bob Barker” with some dismay and profound confusion. 

To blame a benefactor who is donating a million dollars to the city and the zoo to assist in correcting a blatant, controversial blunder created by AZA and its pitifully inadequate standards, is incredibly rude, and economically foolish. 

If AZA’s standards were meaningful, the zoo would have lost its accreditation years ago for keeping multiple elephants in a barren, confined space with no opportunity to express basic elephant behavior. The elephant exhibit at the zoo has been a source of embarrassment to the city for years, and the city council should be commended for the decision to close the exhibit and relocate the elephants. The “elephantine mistake” has been allowing the zoo’s “expert staff” and the AZA to make the decisions, when they created the problem in the first place by allowing the substandard conditions to continue over many years, resulting in the deaths of several elephants. 

Mr. Barker has not made a pet project of securing the Toronto Zoo’s elephants, he simply offered financial assistance for their translocation to PAWS. Basic rules of etiquette indicate at least a thank you note is appropriate for a donation of any size; Mr. Barker’s generous donation deserves a huge vote of gratitude from everyone in the city. 

Conversely, if Mr. Barker decides to withdraw his offer, and he should, the city and the taxpayers who support the zoo will be left with a million dollar financial burden which I doubt AZA will assist in defraying. They will certainly be unable to finance the cost of air transport which zoo “experts” have insisted is essential. 

Losing AZA accreditation may be the first step on the road to saving the zoo; if not, they can always apply again next year after Bob Barker and his persistent “Come on down” blandishments have disappeared. 

Pat Derby

Correcting Misinformation About PAWS


PAWS is not a zoo, we are a Sanctuary; we provide a dignified peaceful refuge to injured, abused, unwanted and retired animals. Zoos, on the other hand, seek to form collections of healthy, virile specimens to exhibit and breed in displays that are often inadequate. Fortunately, some zoos are changing their ways. 

When it comes to our elephants, our medical issues arrive with the elephants. The same cannot be said for many zoos and circuses which often create foot problems, arthritis and skin diseases in elephants due to lack of space, poor facilities and unnatural substrates. PAWS inherits all of those problems when those animals are retired to PAWS. Virtually every elephant that comes to PAWS has a history of physical and/or psychological illness, often untreatable. We are the last alternative to the painful and lonely death of an animal who may have suffered most of its life.

With the City of Toronto’s decision to donate the Toronto Zoo elephants to PAWS, the question of TB at PAWS has become the focus of certain zoo personnel and other misguided individuals who are opposed to sending the Toronto Zoo elephants to PAWS in the uninformed belief that their presence at PAWS endangers their welfare. 

Most recently, some people who purport to be associated with the Toronto Zoo, as well as a veterinarian, Dr. Rapley, have conducted what can only be described as a “witch hunt” directed at PAWS by their urging the media and local agencies that regulate PAWS, to “investigate” PAWS based upon false and misleading statements. They have conducted a never-ending, misinformed, one-sided Facebook war, pursuing what, in our opinion, is a highly unethical and unprofessional tactic under the guise of “due diligence.”

To eliminate the continued spread of this misinformation, I have summarized below the current status of TB at PAWS:

Every elephant at PAWS has tested consistently negative for trunk wash culture for TB. None have ever culture tested positive.

There are two relatively new blood tests, the STAT/PAK and the MAPIA, which are not approved or used in Canada, but are required by USDA in the United States. They indicate if the elephant has ever been exposed to TB, and, if an elephant is reactive to either test, the USDA recommends more frequent trunk wash testing for that elephant.

Because PAWS accepts elephants, like Nicholas and Gypsy, from facilities known to have active TB, we always quarantine those elephants for at least one year, and trunk wash test several times. Nicholas and Gypsy were kept at PAWS Galt facility, the only elephants on that property, for a year and a half before coming to ARK 2000. Prince is currently in an isolated quarantine area at ARK 2000, and so was Sabu after his arrival.

All of our African elephants, with which the Toronto elephants will be housed,  have been non-reactive to the blood tests, and we always keep separate cleaning equipment, feed buckets and supplies for each elephant barn. The African habitat and barn is completely separate from all other elephants and barns.

Nicholas, who lives in a separate barn and habitat on Bull Mountain is non-reactive to the blood tests. Prince, who is in quarantine in a separate barn and habitat has tested reactive to one of the blood tests. We trunk wash test him frequently and he is consistently negative on trunk wash culture.

Among the Asians, Wanda is non-reactive to the blood tests, but Annie and Gypsy are reactive; all are trunk wash culture negative.

TB is an enigma among elephants, and the professionals continue to gather information. 

St. Louis Zoo has been treating an elephant, Donna, for a year for active TB. They have stated that they have no idea how she became infected. “We assume elephants get TB like any other animal,” said the zoo’s director of animal health, Dr. Randy Junge. “An animal or human who has TB blows it out and another animal can pick it up. It takes prolonged contact. But we have a closed herd with no animals coming or going.”

It was reported that Donna would remain with the zoo’s other elephants who would be tested frequently for TB. Junge said there is no point separating Donna from the herd now. “She’s been with them all along so they’ve all been exposed to what she’s been exposed to,” said Junge. “Because they are social animals, putting her in isolation would be inappropriate. We want her to remain comfortable and for herd life to go on.”

In 2000 another elephant, Carolyn, 32, died at St. Louis Zoo. Cause of death was listed as TB. 

In 2010, the Dickerson Park Zoo in Missouri began treating C.C., the zoo’s eldest elephant, and the fifth oldest elephant living in AZA-accredited zoos. According to news reports, the zoo’s veterinarian, Dr. Erica Wilson stated, “At this time, C.C. shows no symptoms of an active illness, only that at some point in her lifetime she has been exposed to this bacterium.”

Dr. Wilson went on to say, “C.C. and the other elephants are beloved animals for everyone working on the zoo’s staff and throughout the community as a whole. We treat animals for a variety of conditions all the time. And, we go to great lengths to ensure the best quality care for our animals every day.”

San Francisco Zoo received an elephant, Calle, from LA Zoo who trunk washed positive and was treated for the disease. Calle was originally a Have Trunk Will Travel elephant who gave rides to the public for several years before she was traded to LA Zoo.

TB is prevalent in circuses and some zoos. It is treatable and certainly is not the cause of the majority of elephant deaths in captivity. Rather, most elephants in captivity die from foot diseases and/or arthritis.

It is for this reason that Iringa’s foot problem continues to be the major cause of concern, given she is more likely to die from this condition rather than from anything at PAWS.

And, it is for this reason that the furtive attempts of some to hide Iringa’s foot problems, while postulating a theory of her death from TB at PAWS, is a shocking reminder of the lack of ethics which prevails among some. Indeed, the Zoo will not allow our veterinarian to film the treatment of Iringa’s foot, although we will inherit this problem and need to be informed about her ongoing treatment.

I find the highly inaccurate, and easily refuted, information on the ages of elephants who have died at PAWS so outrageous, I will not waste time on responding. Elephant ages and other data is kept in the Asian and African studbooks and is a valuable reference for those who can read. (Click on links, above.)

PAWS has provided this information at the risk of legal action by those who have donated elephants to us under confidentiality agreements. Toronto Zoo is requesting outside experts to evaluate this situation — although everyone who regulates us IS an outside expert. Their reluctance to allow any outside expert to examine Iringa’s foot is, therefore, even more confusing.

Pat Derby, PAWS President

Zoo vs. Sanctuary: The AZA Position


I have often wondered why PAWS continues to be a target for the perpetuation of myths versus facts by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) regarding sanctuaries. Why us? It is even more perplexing when one considers their silence when blatant animal abuse and neglect is exposed at one of their AZA-accredited or AZA-affiliated facilities like Have Trunk Will Travel.
 
When the Milwaukee County Zoo, an AZA-accredited facility, donated Lota, an Asian elephant, to a circus corporation, the transfer was negotiated with the full approval of AZA. Lota contracted TB while travelling with various circuses and was ultimately mandated by USDA to be sent to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, a transfer protested by AZA who preferred having Lota perform in a circus to life in a sanctuary. Why?
 
 

Annie, a former Milwaukee Zoo elephant, now lives at ARK 2000.

The transfer of Tammy and Annie, Lota’s two elephant companions, to the PAWS sanctuary in Galt, was also vigorously protested by AZA. Milwaukee County executives mandated the transfer after the “training” of Tammy and Annie was exposed on video tapes showing the cruel, daily sessions where the two elephants were roped and beaten repeatedly. AZA did not find this treatment objectionable, although they were opposed to sending the elephants to PAWS. Why?
 
The list continued as years passed, with AZA threatening Detroit, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Alaska zoos with the loss of accreditation for sending elephants to PAWS. Why? Possible answers to this question, are as follows:
 
On October 19, 2004, PAWS distributed a press release expressing outrage over the death of Tatima, a 35-year-old African elephant at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. The press release, which was published in our book, Everything You Should Know About Elephants, in 2009, expressed my opinion that, “This elephant’s death is the direct result of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA) stubborn refusal to make decisions in the best interest of individual animal welfare.” You can read that press release, here.
 
I also wrote an article in response to the 2004 paper, “Zoo vs. Sanctuary: An Ethical Consideration”, written by Dr. Michael Hutchins, Director and William Conway Chair, AZA Department of Conservation and Science. That article is also included in Everything You Shnould Know About Elephants. Dr. Hutchins’ article is once again being circulated on the Web, and at the risk of becoming redundant, readers who may wish to hear the rest of the story can read my response to that article, here.
 
The 27+ year history of PAWS is one of which Ed and I are inordinately proud. Our mission has been simple — to enhance the quality of life for all captive wildlife and to provide sanctuary to abused, abandoned or retired wildlife. Some AZA-accredited zoos have supported our mission and collaborated with us to expose abuse and neglect in facilities that house captive wildlife. They are frequently castigated for their support of PAWS.
 
Why does AZA continue to condone the actions of animal trainers and zoos that use bullhooks and other “tools of the trade” in their management programs, or ones that advocate separating bonded pairs of elephants in the name of conservation which violates the research of scientists who have devoted years to the study of wild populations of animals?
 
Some of the most renowned and respected scientists — Cynthia Moss, Joyce Poole, Winnie Kiiru, Keith Lindsay and Dr. Jane Goodall — have recommended the PAWS ARK 2000 sanctuary to Toronto Zoo as a retirement home for the three African elephants, Thika, Toka and Iringa. Why does AZA consider their years of experience as unimportant, and continue to threaten Toronto Zoo with the horrors of lack of accreditation?
 

Maggie, a former resident of the Alaska Zoo.

 
Further answers are contained in the November issue of the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (CAZA) in-house magazine, published after a workshop was held at Toronto Zoo. In a paper titled, “Collection Sustainability Initiative”, CAZA presented some very frightening ideas on “managing” species, and some very cogent reasons for zoo associations’ support of “industry” facilities and trainers — over sanctuaries and animal welfare advocates.
 
In the early ’70s, zoos referred to their “collections” and often employed Curators of Collections to import popular species captured by exotic animal dealers like Fred Zeehandelaar, who brought Toka and Iringa to the Toronto Zoo after trapping them in the wild.
 
Animal dealers were considered an invaluable resource to zoos and their breeding programs. When a surplus of animals, mostly males, occurred as a result of successful breeding, the dealers would travel to zoos to collect the surplus animals and deliver them to animal auctions and hunting ranches.
 
There were no ethical concerns about acquisition or disposition of the collections. The welfare of individual animals was considered to be unimportant compared to the greater good of Species Survival Plans (SSP).
 
As an animal trainer working in films and television, I was appalled at this system which traded animals like baseball cards, and the resultant suffering and neglect was so horrifying, it compelled me to write my first book, “The Lady and Her Tiger.” I became one of the first “animal activists” before the term was coined.
 
When “Animal Activists” emerged in the early ’80s, Ed and I were honored to join their ranks as they battled industry cruelty. We educated our colleagues on the cruelties inherent in the use of wildlife in entertainment and started campaigns to change laws that allowed the importation of wildlife from range countries. We were also responsible for stricter enforcement of existing laws and public scrutiny of animal auctions and hunting ranches.
 
The exposure of the practice by AZA-accredited zoos to send surplus animals to hunting ranches was the beginning of the controversy between PAWS and AZA.
 

“Animal Activists” and ” Animal Rights Advocates” are identified by CAZA as “advocating for animals to be given rights similar to those of humans.” They state that, “It is anticipated that over the next number of years there will be a ‘hearts and minds’ battle between the zoo and aquarium profession and these groups for support from the general public, various levels of government and potential donors and sponsors.”

Who knew? We thought zoos shared our concern for the welfare of all animals. Many do, but the industry unions, CAZA, AZA and EMA, are promoting some very different concepts in the name of conservation.

CAZA states its concerns regarding:

• The “increasing difficulty for CAZA members to participate in managed breeding programs due to government regulations restricting the movement of animals into and out of the USA.”

• “Sensitivity among staff, supporters and governing authorities on the application of species management processes such as euthanasia, surplusing of over-represented animals and culling (slaughter of large numbers of animals to control populations). It was felt that this has led to non-reproductive animals occupying scarce holding and display space and to a decline in the genetic diversity of the populations.”

• “Animal Activists. . . , in addition to targeting the public, will attempt to create or influence legislation to hamper the ability of zoos and aquariums to conduct their business.”

• “Public opinion is very volatile and can be influenced by media/activist groups. The public doesn’t always differentiate between accredited and non-accredited zoos.”

This philosophy is reflected in much of AZA’s literature and is a disturbing revelation that AZA and CAZA consider those who advocate for animal welfare a threat to the “conduct of their business.” Circuses, animal dealers and animal trainers are preferred colleagues who are allowed to use the perceived credibility of AZA, CAZA, EMA and other trade organizations to justify their activities.

A call to action for a return to the “Good Old Days” — when surplus animals could be euthanized, traded, sold or donated to circuses, animal trainers and backyard breeders; when laws would allow zoos to import or “rescue” (a new term for capture) exotic animals from the wild — is apparent.

Hopefully, the many ethical and humane zoo directors, keepers and docents will object to this return to archaic and insensitive policies that create controversy between them and their “animal activist” supporters.

I still believe most zoo professionals are bona fide animal activists with a strong desire to make life better for their animals — despite the insidious attempts of animal exploiters to infiltrate their world.

 PAT DERBY

PAWS Seeks New Elephant Keeper


After days spent dealing with the surprise of the Toronto Zoo elephants’ pending arrival, and the misinformation about PAWS and ARK 2000 we’ve been reading in news reports and on social media sites ever since, Ed and I were excited to watch good friend, and PAWS supporter, Tony LaRussa win the World Series.

When Tony announced his retirement yesterday morning, we sent him a text message offering him a job as an elephant keeper. It’s sort of an inside joke — Tony has helped us lobby for elephants and he has visited our elephants on many occasions. Tony loves elephants! Actually, he has all the right qualifications for a good elephant person: he’s focused; attentive; very intelligent; and thoughtful. Those are key components for understanding these huge individuals who are all different, like baseball stars.

Tony texted back saying he wanted to apply and would interview. It was great fun and a relief from the tension generated by the recent news. We will be seeking more qualified personnel, but Tony is WAY out of our league.

When Tony told the story on the Late Show With David Letterman last night, we were very grateful for the plug. Three more elephants will be very expensive and Tony knows that, having helped us many times in the past.

Thank you, and congratulations Tony LaRussa!

Catastrophe In Ohio


Once again a licensed private facility, inspected and regulated by federal and state agencies, has proven how cruel and inhumane private ownership of wild animals can be. And, once again, the tragedy in Ohio is just the tip of the iceberg.

PAWS was founded in 1984 to address the need for better laws and standards of care for captive wildlife. Our sanctuary is full of animals who were allowed to be kept in substandard conditions, neglected and suffering, until some catastrophe occurred and they were confiscated. Our files are also full of case studies of incidents like the one in Ohio and its tragic ending. 

More importantly, we are presently attempting to obtain the release of animals and the closure of several other private exotic animal facilities throughout the country. These facilities will continue to operate until private ownership of exotic species is prohibited and captive breeding is kept to a minimum. 

Too many well-intentioned, uninformed and uneducated individuals collect exotic animals and use them as a source of entertainment for the public, and income for themselves, without considering the responsibility to the animals and the public. When they are confronted with reality, they often respond irrationally and the animals always pay. Often, innocent spectators are injured or killed. In Ohio, the public was protected, the animals were not. 

Tigers, grizzly bears, lions, leopards and the plethora of species that are kept in roadside zoos, backyards and traveling shows are a precious benefit to life on this planet. It is not our right to own them.

 

 

The Elephant Grape Stomp (and Chomp)


We held our first Elephant Grape Stomp in 2004 to celebrate the arrival of 71, Mara, Minnie, Rebecca and Annie at ARK 2000. The five original elephants were moved to ARK 2000 shortly after our first barn, the current African barn, was constructed.

Pat and Ed with 71

We learned about the fondness all elephants display for “everything grape” when 71 was a sickly little baby with no appetite for food. I was voraciously reading any book I could find on wild elephants, and remembered a particularly amusing and informative one, Congo Kitabu by Jean Pierre Hallet, which I had read in the ’70s.

At that time, I appeared on a few talk shows with the author and loved his hilarious story about a group of elephants in Africa who found a tree with an abundance of overripe, fermented fruit. The entire herd remained to partake of the bounty. That harvest celebration soon developed into a riotous party of drunken elephants throwing fruit as they slid around the ground, trumpeting and squealing, smashing through the orchard, delighted with the chaos they were creating. The description in the book sounded like a Bacchanalian revel.

71 arrived in August of 1986

The anecdote prompted me to try a variety of fruits which 71 occasionally ate in small quantities, but grapes were always devoured instantly. When local vineyards pruned their vines and donated them to the animals, they became a special favorite of the dilettante baby elephant.

We planted the first grapevines at the Galt sanctuary that year, and they are still fruitful. We brought a truckload of those vines from Galt to ARK 2000 for this year’s festivities held last Saturday (Oct. 15), and the elephants chomped happily on the addition to the feast of grapes donated by Costco for the event.

After the first five elephants arrived at the new property in 2003, many of our neighbors brought fruit to the elephants; the vineyards drove truckloads of grape vine clippings, and the girls ate them like candy. We also learned of the local Calaveras County Grape Stomp which occurs earlier in October, just after harvest.

Our first Elephant Grape Stomp was celebrated in 2004 providing our donors an opportunity to visit the new facility. PAWS enthusiastic supporters have loyally attended the popular event which has grown in size for the past seven years.

Il Fornaio has donated gourmet food to PAWS events since 1995 — Jeff Newland, one of the owners, always brings an entourage of chefs and servers who prepare and serve food to guests, also feeding volunteers and keepers who often miss lunch during the event.

A crowd of over 450 visitors attended the Grape Stomp this year, enjoying some very special entertainment from the six bears, five lions, 26 tigers and nine elephants who cavorted, stalked, roared, chomped and stomped the variety of grapes, vines, pumpkins and other treats and toys that were scattered about their habitats.

Local wineries have donated wine and servers each year and guests always enjoy the profusion of wines from the California Gold Country’s award-winning vineyards.

Jack, the last bear transported from Galt, was incredibly blasé about the event, noisily gorging on grapes and acorns, ignoring the crowd and the excitement.

Sabu and Prince, the two new bull elephants, were quite curious about the visitors, enjoying the plethora of new faces and activity. Sabu, who is very quiet and reserved, delighted all of us when he played with new toys hung from the fence that morning by Margaret and Brian. It was a milestone moment.

Prince nonchalantly posed on the hill pushing a fallen tree around as the visitors oohed and ahhed. Nicholas, the veteran of Grape Stomp festivities, casually watched the crowds, accepting their admiration with gracious aplomb.

Mara, Maggie and Lulu trumpeted their greetings as the vans unloaded the guests at the African habitat; Mara, our elephant version of Miss Piggy, rumbled requests for more treats every few minutes and Maggie roared and trumpeted her demands for attention, batting her long eyelashes at the enrapt crowd.

Lulu, the quintessential lady, stood demurely at a distance waiting for me or her keeper, Michelle, to bring the delicacies to her. Lulu does not compete.

Gypsy huffed and puffed back and forth from the treat area to BFF Wanda who refused to walk the distance for a few tasty morsels. When Gypsy roamed too far, she rumbled her “return immediately” call which galvanized Gypsy to action. After the few moment’s separation, when the two were reunited, they squeaked, chirped, roared and rumbled in a noisy display of affection which enchanted the audience. Wanda, like Maggie, simply calls her friends when she misses the attention, then stands, almost smirking, when Gypsy drops everything and races to find her.

African elephant Maggie, formerly of Anchorage, Alaska, was voted Ms. TUSKany 2011. This is the second win for Maggie, who also won in 2009. The announcement was made during the "Elephant Grape Stomp, An Afternoon In TUSKany" festivities on October 15 at the PAWS ARK 2000 captive wildlife sanctuary in San Andreas, CA. PAWS co-founders, and directors, Pat Derby and Ed Stewart, presented Maggie with an elephant's version of a crown, entirely edible. Congratulations Maggie!

Last year, Wanda and Maggie’s fans, from Detroit and Alaska, battled to win the title of Ms. Tuskany for their candidates, and Wanda won. Detroit was elated.

This year, Maggie benefitted from the presence of Maggie Ferrari Rowland, one of her adoptive parents, who shamelessly spiked the ballot and Maggie won, with dear little Lulu showing a close second. Click here to view a slide show of Maggie’s win.

All the elephants were winners, happily eating the beautiful wreaths made of edible fruits and plants, lovingly designed by PAWS volunteers. Grapes and vines were chomped and yes, Lucy and Ethel, ELEPHANTS DO STOMP GRAPES!

 

Pat Derby is president and co-founder of the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).

The PAWS Elephant Grape Stomp is held each year on the third Saturday in October. Thank you to the following: PAWS staff and volunteers; Jeff Newland/Il Fornaio; Maggie Ferrari Rowland/Jelly Belly/Maggie Ferrari Jewelry Design; The Dessert Cart; Miss Calaveras 2011 and her court; Costco; Devra Lewis and her Blue Mountain Shuttle team; all the wineries — Black Sheep Wines, Bodega del Sur, Brice Station Wines, Catano Wines, Chatom Vineyard, Chateau Routon, Coppermine Winery, Hovey Wines, Irish Vineyards, Ironstone Vineyards, Metate Hill Vineyards, Milliare Wines, Renner Vineyards, Stevenot Winery, Tanner Wines, Twisted Oak Winery, Vina Moda Winery, Zucca Mountain Vineyards; and everyone who donated to our silent auction!