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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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Above: African elephant Mara grazes on a hillside.


How Grazing in the Grass

Benefits Captive Elephants

The winter and early spring rains in Calaveras County have produced an abundance of tall, green grass at ARK 2000. The elephants spend long hours munching on this rich and bountiful delicacy as they traverse their spacious, natural habitats. We intuitively know that fresh vegetation is good for elephants, but what exactly are the benefits of these dietary components?

Green, leafy vegetation is an excellent source of nutrients including vitamin E, a critically important component of elephant nutrition that contributes to a healthy immune system, and healthy skin, muscle and heart function. The very act of grazing has multiple benefits including reinforcement of social bonds, strengthening muscles, and engaging the mind and body in meaningful activity.

The tip of an elephant's trunk is finely coordinated, strong, and shows remarkable dexterity when manipulating objects. When grazing, elephants tend to gather a bundle of grass with roots and soil attached to it. Each elephant has his or her own unique way of eating grass, as distinctive as the individual's personality. Maggie places a bunch of grass in just the right spot in her mouth, and uses her teeth to "snip" off the roots, letting them fall to ground before chewing and swallowing the leafy part of the grass. Toka will sometimes hold her grass bundles close to the ground and use one foot to break off the some of the root ball before chewing the rest. Gypsy taps her grass bundle against her leg or a tree to dislodge soil before eating. Nicholas (above left) not only loves to graze, but on occasion likes to wear clumps of grass on his head!

In nature, wild elephants may spend up to 80% of their day foraging for food and water. Guided by seasonal availability, as well as cultural wisdom passed down through generations, elephants are specially adapted to take advantage of whatever vegetation is available to satisfy their nutritional requirements. After the rainy season when grass is abundant, elephants consume large amounts of it. In dry seasons, elephants still consume grass, but also eat more tree bark, leaves, branches, and other "woody" plant material.

Sadly, in many captive elephant facilities, grass is either sparse or non-existent. In these places, elephants subsist on hay, pellets, vegetables and fruit provided by human keepers. If grass does exist near elephant enclosures, it is usually for the purpose of making the area aesthetically pleasing to the zoo visitor. Trees, plants and grass inside the enclosures are typically surrounded by electrified "hot wire" to prevent the elephants from eating them. Not so at PAWS' ARK 2000 sanctuary, where every habitat has a variety of seasonal grasses, trees and other year-round vegetation for the elephants to enjoy to their hearts' content. In addition, PAWS elephants are also provided with a variety of browse, fruits, vegetables, pellets and hay to ensure that all of their nutritional needs are met.

WATCH VIDEO: Click here to watch African elephants Toka and Thika grazing in their habitat.


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Above: Maggie a few days after her dental work.

Animal Care at PAWS:

African Elephant Maggie Undergoes

Major Dental Procedure

By Jackie Gai, DVM

Performing Animal Welfare Society Veterinarian

An important part of caring for the wild animals at PAWS is maintaining dental health. When your patient is an elephant who requires a major dental procedure, it becomes a task of major proportions. On April 26th, 36-year-old African elephant Maggie was examined under general anesthesia for treatment of an impacted molar tooth in the lower right side of her mouth. This procedure, which took place at PAWS' ARK 2000, involved a team of over 25 experienced elephant care experts from across the U.S., including nine veterinarians, one dentist who normally treats humans, three registered veterinary technicians, and members of PAWS' elephant staff team. Under the experienced guidance of the Colyer Institute, a non-profit organization specializing in the treatment of dental disease in elephants and other wild animals, Maggie was safely and expertly anesthetized and part of her malformed molar tooth was removed.

Months of intense preparation were required for this procedure, including gathering hundreds of pounds of specialized equipment and supplies. Using reward-based positive reinforcement methods, PAWS' Elephant Manager Brian Busta, President and Co-founder Ed Stewart, and our expert team of elephant keepers trained Maggie for several behaviors that were essential for proper positioning and to help her stay calm during anesthesia induction and recovery.

Dental disease is common in captive elephants and if untreated can even lead to loss of life in severe cases. Tusks, which are actually modified incisor teeth, may crack, break or split and become infected, requiring partial removal or complete extraction. Molar teeth, which normally are shed and replaced as elephants age, may become impacted and deformed, leading to abscesses and eventually the inability to chew properly. There are a number of theories as to why these problems occur in molar teeth. Some think that the improper nutrition elephants may have received as young calves may play a role in the development of dental disease later in life as adults. Maggie was born in Zimbabwe in 1980. She was captured for the zoo trade when she was just one year old, after her mother and other family members were killed in a cull (the systematic killing of adult elephants by the government in order to control populations encroaching upon human civilization).

Due to the number of people involved, the amount of equipment necessary, and the time required, this procedure was very expensive, costing PAWS approximately $70,000. While considered successful in that part of Maggie's abnormal tooth was removed, we unfortunately discovered that Maggie's dental disease is more complicated than first thought. Maggie will likely require at least two more anesthetized procedures for advanced imaging (digital X-rays of her jaw), and to attempt to correct or extract the rest of her impacted and malformed molar teeth.

Throughout this experience, both before and after her procedure, Maggie's dental problems have had no effect on her appetite or her ability to chew and digest her food and she has been as active as ever.

If you would like to support the health care of Maggie and the other wild and exotic animals at PAWS, please make a contribution today by clicking here.

Other articles by Dr. Gai:


Read Dr. Jackie Gai's complete report here.

Meet PAWS' veterinary staff by clicking here.

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A BIG Thank You to Everyone Who Donated on the BIG Day of Giving!

PAWS thanks everyone who donated on the BIG Day of Giving on May 3rd and helped us not just meet our goal of $25,000, but surpass it! Altogether, you donated $31,037. In addition, PAWS won a $1,500 prize given to the organization participating in the BIG Day of Giving for the first time that receives the most donations.

Your outstanding generosity is providing the animals at PAWS with a new, customizable stock trailer that is much needed for use in rescue operations, moving animals within and between our three sanctuaries, and for transporting animals in need of highly specialized veterinary care. This includes bears, lions, tigers, smaller wild cats, and the many other wild animals we care for at PAWS.

BIG Day of Giving is an annual 24-hour challenge for non-profit organizations in the Sacramento, California, area, but open to donors around the world. It is part of Give Local America, a national day of giving that celebrates philanthropy in communities across the country.

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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.

Remembering Pat Derby

On February 15, 2013, PAWS co-founder, the late Pat Derby, lost her battle with cancer. Pat may no longer be with us, yet we feel her presence every day. Her legacy of compassion and dedication to captive wildlife is alive in every animal who has found refuge at our three sanctuaries, and drives our efforts to protect captive wild animals from abuse and exploitation.

Pat was a famous exotic animal trainer when she wrote the groundbreaking 1976 book, "The Lady and Her Tiger," that exposed the dark underside of animal training in the entertainment industry. The book may have ended her Hollywood career, but it catapulted her, together with her partner of 37 years, PAWS President Ed Stewart, into rescuing and providing sanctuary for captive wildlife, advocating on their behalf, and fighting to end the use of wild animals in circuses and all forms of entertainment.

Pat believed in the power of sanctuary to transform exotic animals who were once forlorn back into the noble wild animals they are, by giving them a more natural environment, excellent care, and the opportunity to express natural behaviors - just letting them be wild animals again. That belief was the inspiration for the 2300-acre ARK 2000 natural habitat sanctuary, which today is home to Asian and African elephants, tigers, lion, black leopard and bears.

Ed Stewart continues to lead PAWS into the future, building on the work for captive wildlife that he and Pat started more than 30 years ago. We thank you, our supporters - whether a new friend or longtime partner - for making this work possible.

Read Ed Stewart's 2013 tribute to Pat Derby here.


The following videos were created in honor of Pat Derby and shown during the PAWS 30th Anniversary Gala and the International Captive Wildlife Conference in November 2014.

The early years. (click on the picture to play video.)

It had to begin with elephants. (click on the picture to play video.)


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 »



Above: Dr. Cynthia Moss and Ed Stewart with African elephant Thika.


Famed Elephant Expert

Dr. Cynthia Moss Visits ARK 2000

World-renowned elephant scientist, Dr. Cynthia Moss, recently paid a visit to ARK 2000, staying with us for several days before her appearance as keynote speaker for the annual Celebrating Elephants event at The Oakland Zoo on May 21. Dr. Moss is the Co-Founder and Director of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP) and Program Director and Trustee of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants (ATE). Since 1972 she has lived with and studied the elephants of Kenya's Amboseli National Park. Her pioneering work has revealed most of what we know today about elephant behavior and social structure, and she tirelessly works to raise awareness about the devastating effects of the ivory trade on elephants.

Accompanying Dr. Moss was Dr. Betsy Swart, the U.S. Executive Director of ATE and longtime friend of PAWS. During their visit, PAWS staff was incredibly fortunate to be able to spend time with these dedicated and influential women. Together, we observed PAWS elephants and had many enlightening and inspiring discussions about elephant behavior, as well as some of the issues and challenges facing elephants both in the wild and in captivity.

Members of PAWS' staff and board attended the Celebrating Elephants event to support ATE and hear Dr. Moss talk about the elephants of Amboseli National Park and AERP's most recent research. This included studies on the effects of serious drought on the elephant population (the population has bounced back with a bounty of elephant calves!) and on the lives of young male elephants and what occurs during the time after they leave their families at about age 14. ATE also continues to track the movement of elephants as they navigate a landscape increasingly filled with human settlements.

PAWS is proud to support Dr. Moss and ATE.


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Update: SB 1062

Bill to Ban Bullhooks in California

Click here to watch the Senate floor vote that took place in April.

In April the California state Senate passed SB 1062, the bill introduced by state senator Ricardo Lara that would ban the use of cruel bullhooks on elephants, by a vote of 29-9. The bill then moved to the Assembly where it was heard on June 14 in the Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife and passed with a bi-partisan vote of 12-2.

On June 21 we face our greatest – and most critical – hurdle: the Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media. We MUST pass this committee if we are to proceed toward a full Assembly vote. If we fail, elephants will continue to be abused with bullhooks in California.

Californians Take action!

What: Attend the Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media. We need to pack this hearing with as many elephant advocates as possible!

When: Tuesday, June 21, at 9 a.m. (Get there early; meeting will start promptly at 9 a.m.)

Where: Room 437 at the State Capitol in Sacramento

The bullhook resembles a fireplace poker, with a sharpened steel tip and hook at the end. Handlers strike, prod and hook elephants, using the bullhook to exert control through pain and fear. Today there is a safer and more humane way of managing elephants that uses positive reinforcement training, food treats and praise. With thismethod, keepers provide excellent husbandry and veterinary care without the use of intimidation and painful punishment. No AZA-accredited zoo in California uses bullhooks, and we have never used a bullhook at PAWS.

It is time for California to end the use of this barbaric device. The cities of Los Angeles and Oakland have banned the bullhook, and San Francisco has prohibited the use of all performing wild animals.

If you live in California and want to help make our state the first in the nation to ban the bullhook, please:

Be sure to "like" PAWS' Facebook page, where we will be posting the latest news as well as information on how Californians can help pass this important bill.

Stay tuned for PAWS alerts containing information on contacting your elected officials, urging them to support SB 1062.

If you don't live in California but know friends and family who do, please alert them to SB 1062. Or consider working to pass a ban on bullhooks in your area.

PAWS is working collaboratively with The Humane Society of the U.S. and the Oakland Zoo to pass SB 1062.

For more information, please contact Catherine Doyle, PAWS' director of science, research and advocacy,

Read Senator Lara's press release here.


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Update: Swaziland Elephant Import

Conservationists around the world warned last year that Swaziland's sale of elephants to US zoos would encourage other countries to sell elephants - and presumably other valuable wildlife - for profit. Still, the Dallas Zoo, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, and the Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas imported 17 wild elephants in March, paying Swaziland $450,000 under the mantle of a "conservation partnership" to primarily help rhinos.

Now, Swaziland wants to legalize trade in rhino horn. If successful this move would generate untold millions of dollars for the country, at the cost of escalating international demand for rhino horns and driving rhinos to extinction - apparently with the zoos' help. Read Partnership with Swaziland on Elephant Import May Implicate U.S. Zoos in Destructive Rhino Horn Trade by PAWS' director of science, research and advocacy, Catherine Doyle, for the disturbing story.

PAWS has also learned that a male calf was born to one of the Swaziland elephants at the Dallas Zoo this month, meaning that the zoos knowingly transported a heavily pregnant elephant - putting the mother and calf at risk. (When two U.S. zoos imported elephants from Swaziland in 2003, they purposely selected two pregnant females; only one of them successfully gave birth.)

The zoos still claim to have "rescued" the 17 elephants, even though the zoos themselves are responsible for creating the environment in which Big Game Parks in Swaziland again threatened to cull (kill) elephants if they were not exported to the US. In fact, no southern African country has culled elephants in over 20 years. Paying for wild animals to put on display in zoos clearly creates a market for these animals. This dangerous trade in wildlife puts a price on the heads of elephants and other wildlife and threatens their very existence.


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Registration Is Now Open

Registration is now open for the PAWS 2016 International Captive Wildlife Conference, November 11-13, 2016. This premier global summit will address theconfinement and use of exotic and wild animals - with a special focus on elephants, bears and big cats - and features exceptional speakers from the fields of scientific research, conservation, law, and animal welfare, care and policy.

This year's conference will be held at a venue in San Andreas, California, home to PAWS' ARK 2000 sanctuary. Attendees will be invited to tour the sanctuary on Sunday, November 13. The tour will be led by PAWS' President Ed Stewart.

PAWS has been presenting outstanding conferences since 1992, attracting people from around the world. Our aim is to educate, stimulate critical discussion and promote action to protect and improve the welfare of captive wildlife.

Visit the PAWS Calendar of Events page and follow the link to registration information, list of featured speakers, and conference program. Be sure to register early — this conference is sure to fill up quickly!

We hope to see you in San Andreas!


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Thank you May Amazon

"Wish List" Donors

Agostino Ippolito: one case of unsalted peanuts. Kitty Hawk: five cases of unsalted peanuts. ADS: one case of unsalted peanuts. Patricia L. Connelly: one  5 lb. bag of Missing Link Ultimate Skin and Coat; one box #10 envelopes; one 30 lb. bag of Blue Buffalo. Catherine Kasper: two bottles of AminAvast, 60#; two 10 lb. bags of Missing Link Ultimate Equine Skin and Coat. Greg and Vernna Werner: one bottle of Wheat Germ Oil, 32 oz; two cases of Oranges, 40 lbs.; one box nitrile gloves; one 5 lb. bag of Missing Link Ultimate Equine Skin & Coat. Barbara Greene: one 10 lb. bag of Missing Link Ultimate Equine Skin & Coat. Sharon Elkin: one 20 lb. tub of Psyllium. Nina Hostmark: one 20 lb. tub of Psyllium. Anonymous Donor: one 30 lb. bag of Blue Buffalo.



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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