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January 16, 2009


Opposed as we are to captivity, we find ourselves in a daily battle to alleviate the suffering that captivity inflicts on animals who should be free.

When we accepted the responsibility of caring for Nicholas & Gypsy, we knew that dealing with the relationship between the young male and his older female companion would be challenging. When Nicholas matured and his hormones became an issue, separation would be inevitable.

Last week, both Nicholas & Gypsy knew that the moment had arrived. Gypsy, who had spent all of her time and energy for the past several years raising Nicholas and teaching him the rules of behavior for elephants, undoubtedly understood more than Nicholas did about the change that was occurring.

On Tuesday, January 13th, Gypsy kept blocking Nicholas' way out to the yard and into the barn, pushing and controlling him with a tenacity that signaled trouble. Nicholas dutifully moved when she pushed him, and behaved submissively for several hours, then suddenly, he began to fight back with a frightening intensity.

The playful sparring that kept the two engaged on many occasions was quite different from the frenetic battle that ensued. As all of us tried every distraction available to no avail, Nicholas was pummeling Gypsy who returned every blow.

When we finally distracted Nicholas long enough to allow Gypsy to retreat to the barn, Gypsy was still trying to dominate the young bull. She seemed to know that she had to maintain her status as the dominant figure, and Nicholas seemed perplexed at his own rage as the powerful male hormones raced through his body.

The two are separated now, and we know it is the end of an era, a time when the young, captive born male needed a surrogate mother. Gypsy provided security, safety and wisdom to him as long as she could. In the wild, he would be sent out to follow older bulls and learn the ritual that all elephants understand.

They are both fine, but they touch through safety barriers that divide the stalls. They understand what has happened and seem resigned, but we will make the final separation slowly and sadly.

In a week or two, we will move Gypsy down to join Minnie, Rebecca, Annie and Wanda. She will enjoy a much deserved rest and retirement from the daunting task of raising a young bull.

Next month, the habitat fencing will be complete and Nicholas can wander down to see the old girls and his beloved companion.

Pat Derby President



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

(209) 745-2606 office/shelter
(209) 745-1809 fax

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