June 15, 2006
For Immediate Release
A Picture May Be Worth a Thousand Words ...but Not If the Caption Is an Out-Right Lie
PAWS Demands ABC News Held Accountable to Report the Real Truth About Elephants and Zoos
(Galt, CA) Only a few days after the tragic news of yet another zoo elephant death, outrage over a false and misleading segment on elephants and zoos is brewing at the internationally recognized and honored organization - PAWS - the Performing Animal Welfare Society.
Armed with broadcast footage depicting what only can be described as dishonest reporting, PAWS is issuing a formal request to the President of ABC for a retraction and urging ABC to re-run the ABC National News piece that aired on June 12, 2006 about the death of Gita, an Asian elephant from the Los Angeles Zoo.
The elephants at the LA Zoo have long been the subject of controversy about how elephants should live, and consternation to PAWS because of the incredibly inferior facility in which Gita languished (and ultimately died).
Pat Derby, founder of PAWS issued this statement today saying, "Gita's death was predictable and a sad release for her. But the ABC news story was as misleading as the information about Gita's health. Their story showed many beautiful visuals of happy elephants roaming in tall grass while implying that the footage was actually filmed at zoos. When in fact, most of the footage of the spacious areas in the segment were filmed at the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) ARK2000 sanctuary in San Andreas, CA., and not at a zoo."
Derby goes on to point out, "Ironically, one of the first visuals in the piece was that of Wanda, our Asian elephant, who recently came to PAWS sanctuary from the Detroit Zoo. She is shown roaming and grazing at PAWS on acres of lush grass, trees and a lake. She lives at PAWS now because their progressive zoo director wanted her to live the remainder of her life in a warm, gentle climate."
ABC's final shot was identified in caption as "live from Escondido, CA." giving the viewer the impression it was taken at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. When in fact, that footage was actually filmed in its entirety at PAWS' ARK2000 in San Andreas, CA. Derby notes, "Actually, the elephant shown in the footage was raised at PAWS sanctuary, unchained and free to roam in large areas. This African elephant, our "71" -- is a poster elephant for the benefits of space, freedom of choice and exceptional care."
Derby goes on to state, "Further, it is an insult to those of us who slept with her when she was a sickly baby, sick because she was removed from her mother too soon - and a dishonor to those of us who provided the constant care which she has enjoyed for 21 years."
"To imply that SHE is the result of the "state of the art" management which AZA and the LA Zoo have given Gita and the scores of other animals - animals who have died as a result of their confinement on hard surfaces, and the use of chains, bullhooks and other weapons for training - is nothing short of an outrage. ABC indeed sent a film crew out to our sanctuary to film our elephants and then consistently failed to identify PAWS, our sanctuary, or our elephant management protocols."
PAWS is demanding ABC rerun the piece with an interview of PAWS officials -- individuals who have over 30 years of experience, creating progressive techniques to manage elephants successfully in a kinder, gentler fashion.
In addition to proper identification of PAWS' sanctuary and our elephants, we demand honest and fair representation of our experience, hard work, leadership, and professional care of elephants. Proper representation of PAWS programs will clearly demonstrate the beneficial effects of space, freedom and an enriched environment to the viewing public who care about elephants.
Derby ends her statement by announcing, "In addition to posting an action advisory on our website - which is visited by thousands of visitors regularly -- we are alerting our 50,000+ membership base and are encouraging each of them to join us in demanding a rerun of a truthful broadcast. The public deserves to view honest news reporting and programming. People care deeply about the welfare of captive elephants and they also care about what the future holds for these magnificent animals."