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Since 1984, The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) has been at the forefront of efforts to rescue and provide appropriate, humane sanctuary for animals who have been the victims of the exotic and performing animal trades. PAWS investigates reports of abused performing and exotic animals, documents cruelty and assists in investigations and prosecutions by regulatory agencies to alleviate the suffering of captive wildlife.



The five elephant habitats at ARK 2000 provide the elephants with hundreds of acres of varied natural terrain to roam, lakes and pools to bathe in, and elephant barns equipped with heated stalls and a indoor therapy pool.
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Registration closes on Oct. 31st!

PAWS 2018 International

Captive Wildlife Conference

We're less than one month away from the PAWS International Captive Wildlife Conference! This year’s three-day conference has the theme of “Confronting Captivity” and is sure to be our best event ever. We have more than 45 amazing speakers from around the world (at least half of them are new to this event), representing work for captive wild animals in countries such as Australia, Canada, China, France, India, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Namibia, Serbia, South America, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States and Zimbabwe.

What: PAWS International Captive Wildlife Conference

When: November 9-11, 2018

Where: Burbank, California (Los Angeles area)

This is PAWS’ largest conference and presented just once every four years.

Day 1 of the conference is primarily about elephants – in the wild, captivity and in sanctuaries. David Hancocks is our leadoff speaker with a presentation on zoos that you won’t want to miss! The day also includes a special presentation by Caitlin O'Connell-Rodwell about her groundbreaking studies of male African elephants.

Day 2 covers animal law and legislation (including updates from leading international animal protection organizations), more on elephants, captive marine mammals, and a scientific examination of captivity. The leadoff speaker is Steven Wise of the Nonhuman Rights Project which is fighting for legal recognition of personhood for chimpanzees and elephants.

Day 3 starts with must-see speaker Jill Robinson of Animals Asia, and includes panels on bears, big cats, and confronting captivity in the future, as well as a captivating presentation by Animals Lebanon.

The full conference program is now available.

Click here to view.


Click here for more information and to register.

PAWS would like to thank our sponsors to date:

Animal Legal Defense Fund, Alyne Fortgang, The Humane Society of the United States, In Defense of Animals, International Fund for Animal Welfare, PETA Foundation, David Reuben, The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and Tigers in America.

If you are interested in sponsoring the 2018 PAWS International Captive Wildlife Conference or would like more information, please contact PAWS Director of Science, Research and Advocacy Catherine Doyle at

Program and speakers are subject to change..

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Spotlight on

African Elephant Toka

You can easily identify African elephant Toka as she navigates the grass-covered hills at ARK 2000, together with Maggie and Lulu. Her long tusks make her stand out from the other elephants. The 48-year-old elephant came to PAWS in October 2013 from the Toronto Zoo, with Thika and Iringa. Iringa was humanely euthanized in July 2015 following a long history of degenerative joint and foot disease, the leading reasons for euthanizing elephants in captivity.

Toka was only four years old when she arrived in Toronto – one of seven wild-caught elephants imported from Mozambique in 1974 (she is the only surviving member of the group). She likely was the victim of a cull, meaning that she witnessed the massacre of her protective mother and aunts, before being thrust into a crate and shipped across the world. Toka would spend the next 39 years at the zoo, living in close quarters amid a number of elephants and the ever-shifting alliances between them. She gave birth to a female calf named Toronto, who died at age 10. By 2010 only Toka, Thika and Iringa remained, the Toronto Zoo having lost four elephants in as many years and others before that. After the zoo decided to end its elephant program, the Toronto City Council voted to relocate the elephants to PAWS.

Today Toka spends her days immersed in nature, foraging throughout the day on grass, trees and other fresh vegetation. She loves being close to friends Lulu and Maggie, as the group moves together throughout their habitat. If there is one thing Toka adores, it’s a good mud bath (click on the photo below to view a video of Toka). She can often be found stomping, splashing and rolling in the mud, which serves to protect her skin from insects and the sun. Toka’s caregivers report that she is relaxed and calm during husbandry care and training, and that bananas send her into a blissful state as she savors this special treat.

Some people think that all elephants get along because they are a social species, but this isn’t always the case. Female elephants naturally would only live with their mothers, daughters, other female family members and their offspring – and not with unrelated elephants. In captivity, elephants are haphazardly brought together. Not only are they not from the same family, they aren’t even from the same locale. Home countries for the African elephants at PAWS include Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa.

At PAWS we let the elephants tell us what social situation works best for them. Their individual life histories generally dictate these choices. For example, an in-depth story by Toronto Life magazine (2010) on the elephants at the zoo reported that “Thika, despite being more than a decade younger than the other two [Toka and Iringa], had taken over as matriarch, and she was using her new-found power to antagonize Toka.” The keepers tried to teach the two to get along by “forcing them to spend time with one another in short ‘compatibility sessions.’”

These days Thika (the only captive born elephant among the Africans) spends her time with long-time PAWS resident Mara. She can often be seen following Mara around like a little sister follows a big sister. Toka is most relaxed with Maggie and Lulu and is never far from them. PAWS’ first priority is always the health and welfare of our animals. By closely monitoring the elephants’ behaviors and honoring their choices, they have the most stress-free and comfortable lives possible – which is how it should be.

You can adopt Toka, or any of the elephants at PAWS, for a year by clicking here. Your adoption provides the animals with a full range of care, including plenty of TLC!


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PAWS' co-founder, the late Pat Derby, and African elephant 71, walking through the hills at ARK 2000. Pat and Ed rescued 71 in 1986; she was PAWS' founding elephant. 71 died in 2008 - read about

her here.

Pat Derby: A Life Dedicated

to Protecting Captive Wildlife

Pat Derby, co-founder of the Performing Animal Welfare Society, was a champion for captive wild and exotic animals, particularly those used in “entertainment.” Working side by side with her partner, current PAWS’ president and co-founder Ed Stewart, they set a new standard of care for captive wildlife, including establishing the first elephant sanctuary in the U.S. Sadly, Pat lost a long battle with cancer and passed away on February 15, 2013. But her spirit continues to live in PAWS’ rescue, sanctuary, and advocacy work.

Taking Action for Performing Wild Animals

In the 1960s and 70s, Pat was best known for her work as an animal trainer on Hollywood film and television productions, including “Gunsmoke”, “Lassie”, “Daktari”, and “Flipper.” She was the trainer for cougars Chauncey and Christopher, who graced the Lincoln Mercury “Sign of the Cat” ad campaign, and were the most recognized advertising symbols in the country at the time. Behind the scenes, Pat witnessed the pervasive neglect and abuse of performing wild animals and decided to take action. She wrote a tell-all book, The Lady and Her Tiger, exposing the inhumane treatment and calling for better standards of animal care and handling. The book went on to win an American Library Association Award and was a Book of the Month Club selection. With this bold action, Pat became the first to champion the cause of performing wild animals – and later campaigned for those in circuses and other “entertainment” – and inspired modern animal protection organizations to take up this important cause.

The Performing Animal Welfare Society is Born

Pat met Ed Stewart in 1976, and the two spent the next few years promoting The Lady & Her Tiger with television appearances on the “Today Show”, the “Tonight Show”, “The Merv Griffin Show” and other national media outlets. They also toured extensively, educating people about the serious welfare problems suffered by performing animals. In 1984 Pat and Ed established the Performing Animal Welfare Society to formalize their captive wildlife protection work. Their first effort was to create standards for the care of captive wildlife in California, which they achieved that same year with the enactment of Assembly Bill 1620. They also began investigating, protesting and exposing the abuse of wild animals in circuses. In 1986, Pat and Ed established their first sanctuary in Galt, California, to care for abused and abandoned captive wildlife. Today, under Ed’s leadership, PAWS operates three sanctuaries in California for captive wild and exotic animals, including the 2,300-acre ARK 2000 natural habitat refuge in San Andreas that is home to elephants, big cats and bears. It is the only accredited sanctuary in the country to house male elephants.

Leadership in Animal Care and Advocacy

Pat remained an outspoken advocate for captive wild animals until the end. As a recognized expert on the care of captive wildlife, she testified twice before Congress on efforts to end the use of elephants in traveling shows. She also served on several state committees to set standards for the care and handling of captive wildlife, including the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director’s Advisory Committee on the Humane Care and Treatment of Wild Animals, a position now filled by Ed.

Pat’s Legacy for the Animals

Pat’s bravery and vision for a better life for captive wildlife helped lay the groundwork for the profound changes we are seeing today, including the public’s increasing rejection of the use of wild animals in entertainment, whether elephants and tigers in circuses or orcas in marine parks, and the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus coming to an end. Her battle against the use of cruel elephhant bullhooks has resulted in statewide bans in California and Rhode Island, with PAWS playing an integral role in their passage.

Pat remains an inspiration to everyone at PAWS and to the greater animal protection community. Her determination and fighting spirit continue to drive PAWS’ efforts to create a more just and humane world for captive wild animals, each and every day.



At PAWS Sanctuaries rescued animals live in peaceful, natural habitats, free from fear, chains, and harsh confinement. They are at complete liberty to act out natural behaviors in the comfort of their individually designed enclosures. PAWS' animals are not bred, traded, sold, rented or forced to perform in any way. PAWS educates the entertainment industry, public officials and the general public in humane care and treatment of captive wildlife.

Through our public awareness campaigns, more and more actively concerned individuals are becoming aware of the problems inherent in the breeding of wildlife in captivity and the use of animals in entertainment. Learn More »




Elephants After Dark:

A Report From the Field

By Catherine Doyle,

PAWS Director of Science, Research and Advocacy

One aspect of my work at PAWS involves conducting observations of our female African elephants as part of an ongoing behavioral study. Usually I work during the day, watching the elephants from a distance for hours at a time and recording their behaviors and interactions. However, I recently had the opportunity to observe elephants Mara and Thika (pictured above and below) outside overnight. The experience was magical.

So how do you watch elephants at night? Well, it certainly helped to have a large, bright moon overhead that bathed the sanctuary in a silvery light and illuminated the elephants as they silently crossed their habitat. At one point Mara and Thika climbed a hill together, with the starry night sky as a backdrop. When the elephants were closer to me, they were well defined in the moonlight; once they moved away, they became large, soft shapes, though I could still discern who was who. Sometimes they wandered over the hill and I had to wait for them to come back into view.

Mara and Thika spent much of their time doing what elephants do: moving around their habitat foraging for and consuming food. This included hay that caregivers provided for them, as well as natural vegetation. The camaraderie between the two elephants that I’ve observed during daytime hours extended to the nighttime, with Mara and Thika remaining relatively close together as they traversed their expansive habitat. Thika often follows Mara, a behavior I also observed that night.

Around 2 a.m. the elephants began bouts of laying down to sleep, sometimes rising and laying back down again. After 3 a.m. the moon set behind the mountains that line one side of the sanctuary and it became much darker. I periodically pointed a quick flashlight beam at the elephants to confirm their behaviors (the light did not seem to bother them at all). The elephants settled in more to sleep. Thika is definitely the more heavy sleeper of the two, slumbering soundly for long stretches of time. (Mara may not have slept as much because she was watching over Thika.) As the sun began to rise the elephants stirred and were met by PAWS President Ed Stewart, who offered them fresh hay.

Studies of wild elephants tell us that elephants are naturally active in mind and body for about 20 hours a day; they may sleep about four to five hours a night. This special observation of Mara and Thika reflected those innate patterns. Staying up all night was a challenge, but it was well worth this unique view of the elephants and their environs. There was a captivating beauty to the sanctuary, which was still and quiet except for the sound of chirping crickets and a barn owl calling from a perch in an oak tree. It was a joy to watch the elephants, whose skin took on a beautiful silvery shimmer as they moved through the cool night air. Importantly, this experience adds to our knowledge of the elephants and their behaviors in a sanctuary setting.


Below: Thika and Mara


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Mack the Bear Thanks You!

Thank you for helping us reach our $25,000+ goal to specially refit a habitat at ARK 2000 for Mack (above), the unstoppable three-legged bear! As you may remember, although Mack is missing part of his hind right leg he loves to climb just about anything – and does so extremely well. Because of your generous donations, we can get to work on making the necessary modifications that will keep Mack safe and sound in his new home. Once those are complete, Mack can make the move from the Galt sanctuary to a much larger, oak forested habitat at ARK 2000 where he can safely forage, explore and, of course, climb!


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African elephants grazing on a hillside at PAWS' ARK 2000 sanctuary. Pictured, left to right: Toka, age 48; Lulu, age 52; and Maggie, age 36.


Setting the Record Straight:

Age and Elephants in Captivity

PAWS is often asked about elephants and aging, particularly in light of the many captive institutions that too easily describe an elephant as “geriatric”, “senior”, or “old.” Sometimes, these elephants are still in their 30s or 40s – an age at which free-living female elephants would be considered to be in their prime and still reproductively active. Yet just recently two zoos used terminology to suggest that middle-aged elephants were old.

An Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoo in New York State just announced plans to relocate its two female Asian elephants to another zoo. Although both are in their mid-thirties, the zoo has suggested that they are in their “golden years.” In supporting the move, the AZA stated that internal and external reviews found the zoo was “not the best place for the increasing health and medical needs of aging elephants.” The receiving zoo reportedly has an elephant exhibit that was designed to address the needs of “aging” elephants specifically. Another zoo in New York State recently publicized the acquisition of a dog for its elephant barn to live with the zoo’s four “elderly” African elephants. They are aged 36 to 41 years.

The idea that elephants are “elderly” at such young ages is likely more related to physical condition than actual age. Captivity often debilitates elephants to the point where they suffer maladies normally associated with old age. This makes it is a misnomer to say they are “aging” or “elderly." Small, unnatural enclosures that restrict the movement elephants naturally need and rigid surfaces like concrete and compressed soil contribute to deadly foot disease and arthritis – the leading causes of death for elephants in captivity. Sadly, many captive elephants die well before their time.

Elephants are generally considered to have a natural life span of 60-70 years. The maximum longevity for elephants (the very oldest an individual elephant has ever lived) is unknown in the wild, however, elephant ethologist and conservationist Cynthia Moss, who has been studying African elephants in the wild for more than 45 years and is director of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, writes that 70 years maximum longevity “is reasonable for African elephants in the wild.” The average longevity for African elephants in Amboseli, as reported by Moss and colleagues, is 54.4 years for females and 42.5 for males. In fact, elephants living in the Amboseli National Park are known to live into their 60s, with some females successfully giving birth to and raising offspring at that age. Asian elephants have been recorded to live into their late 70s and even 80s, so maximum longevity may be even longer for this species. This raises an important question: If captive conditions are truly enough to meet elephants’ needs, why aren’t elephants living far longer and healthier lives? Instead, elephants in captivity are dying at relatively young ages, despite daily care, veterinary interventions, and controlled diets and environments. Research indicates that female elephants living in protected populations in Asia and Africa are living longer than those in captivity in zoos.

Unfortunately, as long as elephants continue to be kept in captivity deceptive terminology will be used to alleviate the public’s concern about these highly intelligent and self-aware animals. That’s why PAWS will continue to raise awareness about the perils of captivity for elephants and other captive wildlife and the need to bring about change.


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How You Can Help PAWS Animals

PAWS provides lifetime care to the tigers, bears, elephants, and other animals that call our sanctuaries home. As animals age, their needs change and they may develop arthritis, kidney disease, and other conditions that are readily treatable with proper care. PAWS expert animal care and veterinary staff provide specialized nutritional and medical support, tailored to the individual needs of each animal. Your generous donations make this excellent care possible. Donate


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Thank you August Amazon

"Wish List" Donors

Edith L. Papp: one 5 lb. tub of Psyllium; three 10 lb. tubs of Psyllium; one gal. Red Cell; one bottle AminiAvast, 60#; three bottles of Renal Essentials, 60#; one 8 oz. bottle of EicosaDerm, 8 fl. oz. Janice M. High: one 10 lb. tub of Psyllium. Carole Bognar: three Probiocin. Stephanie Wiggins: two qts. Red Cell. Michele Grafton: one 48" shovel; one 5 lb. tub of Psyllium; one package AAA batteries, 60#; one package AA batteries, 24#. N. Pecoraro: one 8 oz. bottle EicosaDerm; one 5 lb. tub of Psyllium; five Probiocin. Ceri Joseph: one 10 lb. tub of Psyllium; one Probiocin; 3 bottles of Azodyl. Suzanne Block: one 5 lb. tub of Psyllium. Kathy McBean: one 40 lb. case of oranges. Lisa Marie Lyou: one 5 lb. tub of Psyllium; two qts. Red Cell. Miranda Biggs: one qt. Red Cell; one gal. Red Cell. Dr. Michael Strobel: 10 bottles of Emcelle Tocopherol, Vitamin E. Ruth Angela: one box of 13 gal. trash bags; one bottle of Renal Essentials, 60#; one 8 oz. bottle of EicosaDerm. Cristen Esquibel: one 8 oz. bottle of EicosaDerm; one 32 oz. bottle of EicosaDerm. Anonymous Donors: 11 Probiocin; one bag Blue Buffalo; one 10 lb. tub of Psyllium; three 32 oz. bottle EicosaDerm; three boxes of 33 gl. trash bags; one bag of Greenies Pill pockets, 60#; one box #10 window envelopes; two boxes of 42 gal. trash bags; one Probiocin; one case of copy paper; one 20 lb. tub of Psyllium; three bottles of CosequinDS, 132#; five bags of diced papaya; six bags of diced pineapple.



View wish list items that are needed, but not included on our Amazon list here.

Performing Animal Welfare Society
PO Box 849, Galt, CA 95632

(209) 745-2606 Office/Sanctuary
(209) 745-1809 fax

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