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Elephants in the News at Ark Animals

Read about elephants in the news. First Kali the elephant died at the Hogle Zoo in Utah. At 59 years of age, she was one of the oldest elephants in captivity. Next, Calle an Asian elephant at the San Francisco Zoo was euthanized due to health concerns and complications from an injury and fall after being pushed by her companion. Also this week, an elephant trainer relinquishes his elephant charges, AND the interest in the elephant-human connection sparks interest for a new movie. Animal behaviorist and animal book author comments about the elephants in the news and her connections to them.

Animal Expert Comments: Elephants

Just as the weather raised the mercury on the thermometer this week, elephants seem to have raised the temperature as well. "Elephant euthanized in San Francisco," "Elephant dies at Hogle Zoo," "Elephant trainer gives up elephants," Elephant movie attracts major actor," these are just a few of the sizzling topics in the news. Things are literally heating up when it comes to elephants.

"Elephants are a hot topic for several reasons. First, their status in the wild is dismal, then there are captive management issues and challenges, and don't forget the animal activist demonstrations." said animal behaviorist and author, Diana L. Guerrero.

"When dealing with animals and the issues surrounding them it gets complicated. People like to point fingers and blame others rather than channeling that energy into productive directions. There will always be differences of opinion as to what constitutes the proper management and care of any animal. The captive environment is not the only place where you find these challenges, when you get into the environmental complexities in the countries of origin, it can be more overwhelming. Most people have no idea how complicated it is." Guerrero said.

Guerrero's experiences cover a wide spectrum of topics and she has an interesting background to pull her opinions from. In her book, What Animals Can Teach Us about Spirituality: Inspiring Lessons from Wild and Tame Creatures, Guerrero reveals that she works to improve conditions for all animals, not just elephants. She has taken at least one legal stand for elephants, which she mentions in an early chapter.

This week Guerrero received notification that her book is now being distributed in the UK where she is an alumni to the International Training Centre for the Breeding and Conservation of Endangered Species. The centre is located on the property of the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust Zoo.

"The book covers captive wild animals, pets, and stories about wildlife--and describes how to understand them and learn from them." Guerrero said, "The book is my first public work. The training centre in England is internationally renowned for its conservation work and was started by animal collector and author, Gerald Durrell and I would love to impact the world in the way he did."

Tucked within her book are stories from her early days with elephants when she trained and worked for animal trainer, Ralph Helfer who happens to also be the author of the book, "Modoc." The book hit the newswire this week when it was revealed that it is currently under consideration for adaptation into a feature film --and actor Kevin Costner is interested. But that was the good news.

On the darker side of the news this week the clash between activists and zoo officials escalated in California where Guerrero now lives. Two activist groups protested (Defense of Animals and Citizens for Cruelty Free Entertainment) the euthanasia of Calle at the San Francisco Zoo. San Francisco Zoo officials said the Asian elephant’s problems made her to sick to be moved. Her troubles included degenerative joint disease, tuberculosis, and a recent fall after Tinkerbelle (another elephant) pushed her. Activists insisted that she be sent to an elephant sanctuary.

Because of USDA restrictions, “An elephant that had tuberculosis would not have been able to cross state lines,” said Nancy Chan, spokeswoman for the San Francisco Zoo. “She would not have survived the journey.”

"Animal activists have a role in calling attention to situations that need it. Unfortunately they take actions that have, in the past, inflicted harm to animals and facilities housing them." Guerrero said.

Zoo representatives believe the incident between the two elephants happened because Tinkerbelle sensed stressful conditions. "It is our opinion, and the opinion of other elephant experts we consulted, that Tinkerbelle was agitated by the crowd and the sense that something was different...and could sense that our keeper staff were feeling threatened as well," said staff veterinarian Jacqueline Jencek in a statement.

Chan reported that one animal rights activist had been particularly aggressive with staff after plans to euthanize Calle were announced. The zoo complied with her demands to release Calle’s medical records for review by an independent veterinarian. The woman also insisted that Calle be moved to an elephant sanctuary to recover. But zoo officials say such facilities would not take Calle in her weakened state, and it is illegal to transport an animal with tuberculosis across state lines.

Representatives also said it would be cruel to transport Calle due to her crippling health condition. Calle was diagnosed with Mycobacterium tuberculosis after her arrival at the San Francisco Zoo in 1997. Her treatment has contributed significantly to understanding and administering protocols for tuberculosis in elephants, Chan said. Zoo officials say a necropsy of Calle’s body will help benefit diagnostics and treatments for elephants with tuberculosis.

The 10,000-pound pachyderm suffered joint problems due to a serious injury to her left rear leg in the early 1990s, prior to arrival to San Francisco Zoo. The leg was re-injured in September, according to Chan.

The activists accuse the zoo of negligence and improper care of elephants and say a more appropriate habitat for the elephants would be a wildlife sanctuary. "Tinkerbelle needs to be moved to a sanctuary right away. There's a sanctuary in Tennessee that has said it will take her," said Dr. Elliott Katz, a Mill Valley veterinarian. "These sanctuaries are 2,000 acres of grassland, of areas that the elephant can move. An elephant needs to move in order not to get joint problems or get chronically lame and be in pain all the time."

Zoo spokeswoman Nancy Chan said Tinkerbelle's future is being assessed. "We are going to make a decision as soon as possible on providing her with elephant companionship, whether it's here or at another institution," said Chan.

Excerpt from the National Zoo:

"Wild populations of Asian elephant are estimated at 30,000 and 40,000 animals, with the largest populations occurring in India and Southeast Asia. However, there is little hard data to back up these estimates, and over the past decade habitat loss through large-scale deforestation in Southeast Asia has been rampant. There are no conservation plans that delineate and prioritize the last strongholds for this species.

Zoo scientists use satellite imagery, land cover maps, and data on human-caused disturbances to delineate remaining Southeast Asia’s wildlands. They will then determine which of the areas are potential elephant ranges and how much of the elephant range in wildlands is protected. The results will help guide future efforts to conserve wild elephant populations in Southeast Asia."


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