Hilltop grazing. . . Maggie, Lulu and Mara
At PAWS. . .
Sanctuary Is Just The Beginning!
Michelle Harvey with African elephants Mara (left) and Maggie.
PAWS receives animals in different ways - some are rescues and other animals are relocated or retired and placed in our care. No doubt about it, PAWS has been involved in some pretty dramatic relocations, from flying the elephant Maggie in from Alaska to Ben the bear being transported from North Carolina on a FedEx plane dubbed "Bear Force One." Everyone lets out a collective sigh of relief once the animal arrives safely, but that's really when our work begins. Each animal who comes to PAWS will require rehabilitation, veterinary care, and daily care and attention for the rest of his or her life.
This is the first in a series of articles that will introduce you to what it's like to care for the animals at PAWS and the activities that make up a typical day. But most important, you'll learn that sanctuary is just the beginning of our work for the animals brought into our care.
Meet the Elephant Team
By Brian Busta, ARK 2000 Sanctuary Manager


At PAWS, we believe that taking care of our animal residents is an honor. None of them, whether captured in the wild or born in captivity, had a choice in what happened in their lives. Our dedicated staff works tirelessly in every kind of weather, without complaint - in hot sun to pouring rain - to give the animals the best possible life we can.


We are proud to introduce you to our hard-working elephant staff: Stephen Blanc, Tom Calmese, Terry Campbell, Justin Conder, Michele Franko, Michelle Harvey, Ron Hoffman, Angela Sherrill, Pablo Palloviccini, Mervin Ramirez, Brian Busta, and Bryan Ruth. These dedicated individuals work together as a team to care for the elephants: Africans Mara, Lulu, and Maggie, and Asians Prince, Nicholas, Annie, Gypsy and Wanda.


The morning shift
We have staff at the sanctuary 24 hours a day to take care of the elephants. Those on the morning shift start the day by checking on the elephants and giving them their morning hay. Log book entries of observations written by overnight staff are read by all. Morning medications and supplements are given (mostly for the arthritic elephants), by hiding pills in popcorn, fruit, and sometimes Raisin Bran or Frosted Flakes if a medicine is especially bitter or has a strong taste.
Pablo Palloviccini, left, and Stephen Blanc grab bales of hay from the hay barn. 
Once the truck is full, they will deliver hay to all elephant barns.
Pablo grabs a bucket of popcorn, an elephant favorite. Hiding pills in popcorn, bread, fruit and sometimes Raisin Bran or Frosted Flakes, is a great way to mask the taste of medications that are particularly strong or bitter.
Terry Campbell helps distribute produce to the elephant barns. 
The majority of the elephant's produce is donated by Costco.
While some of the staff attend to the elephants, others are tackling the job of tidying up the outdoor areas in preparation for shifting the elephants. If the weather is warm, water fountains and sprinklers are set up.
The morning staff performs necessary husbandry tasks, including foot soaks and toenail and pad care. Many retired or rescued elephants, but not all, suffer joint and foot issues because of the many years they spent living in inadequate conditions. Foot soaks help to soothe wrist and ankle joints, as well as keep any problem areas clean. Pedicures keep a healthy foot healthy, and regular inspections prevent problems from developing and existing conditions from worsening. 

Tom Calmese makes
elephant-sized frozen treats, a favorite of all the elephants during
the hot summer months!
We may give the elephants their baths in the morning, or later in the day out in the habitats. Each habitat has a fire hose attachment so we can provide a quick shower for anyone in the mood. Nicholas loves his daily fire hose bath time, which takes place near his sand pile and street sweeper brush. Once he's done rolling around in the sand while being bathed, he usually rubs on the brush before wandering off to do his own thing. Lulu has recently taken to enjoying a long bath when the afternoons are hot. She then finds a good dusting spot or looks for a tempting mud hole to go mudding in. 
Elephants naturally use dust and mud to protect their skin from the sun and insects.
When all of the elephants are closed out of the barns, it's time to start cleaning. Each barn is set up a little differently. Some barns have a cushioned, rubberized floor, others have soft soil surfaces, and some have a combination of the two. No matter, every surface needs to be cleaned. The coated floors are sanitized, scrubbed and hosed each day. The soil stalls must be dug out and replaced daily to remove all feces and urine. One of our primary duties is to take care of elephant "doody." And there's a lot of it!
Morning "duty" includes shoveling the barns and hauling away elephant "doody." 
Ron Hoffman has a trailer full! 
Angela Sherrill fills a bucket with elephant pellets that will be added to wheat bran, supplements and the fruits and vegetables that make up each elephant's evening meal.
The afternoon shift
As the day progresses, evening meals are prepared, and medications are readied for the evening and the next morning. Daily meals include elephant pellets, wheat bran and supplements, and any of the following: apples, bananas, carrots, melons, lettuce, spinach, artichokes, asparagus, eggplant, citrus, grapes, brussel sprouts, celery, pineapple, peppers and cucumbers.
The African elephants will eat just about any kind of fruit or vegetable that you put in front of them. There isn't much they don't like. Occasionally, lemons and asparagus are saved for last, but eventually they will be eaten. Nicholas loves citrus, and particularly Pummelos. Prince wouldn't eat potatoes if they were the last things growing on Earth! Wanda is probably the pickiest eater of the bunch. Just for fun she will not eat something that she seemed to love the day before, and then she might love something today that she wouldn't touch yesterday! 


Justin Conder delivers newly-cut
branches (browse) to the elephant barns.

The barns are stocked with hay and with branches or bamboo, which are grown on the property and cut daily. Staff set up suspended hay nets which make getting to the hay more of a challenge for the elephants than if the hay were placed directly on the ground. There are a variety of toys that can be filled with popcorn or elephant pellets; the elephants manipulate the toys in various ways to extract food treats placed inside.


As the day comes to a close, the barn doors are opened and the elephants are given access to their freshly cleaned barns. As the elephants come inside, they are fed their evening meals and given any necessary medications. Most of the year, the elephants have overnight access to the outdoors and can choose to sleep or forage under the stars if they'd like. Overnight staff keep a quiet, watchful eye over all of the elephants, and write down their observations for the morning crew.
Getting ready for the night shift, Steven Blanc makes sure there's an abundant supply of branches and hay in each of the elephant barns.
Caring for elephants is not glamorous. The work is strenuous, repetitive, and at times unpleasant. But the rewards are amazing! There's nothing like seeing new elephants come to the sanctuary who have had little or no living space, respect, or free choice in their lives. Watching them blossom into just being elephants again, more than makes up for all the daily hard work. It's all for them.
* * *


You, too, can be a part of the PAWS elephant team by making a contribution to support the care of the elephants. Large or small, all donations matter! You can also help the elephants by becoming an adoptive parent to Nicholas, or Maggie, Annie or Prince (you choose). Elephant adoptions make a great gift for someone special in your life.


PAWS is not open to the public, but you can visit ARK 2000, and the elephants, during one of our educational weekends, open houses or special events, or go to the PAWS YouTube channel to watch videos of the elephants. 


Tickets for our annual fundraiser, "The Elephant Grape Stomp, An Afternoon In TUSKany", held each year on the third Saturday in October, go on sale Monday, August 12. This event is for adults only (21 and over) and features food, wine tasting, a silent auction and shuttle tours to see the elephants, tigers, bears, lions and leopard.


The September and November dates for our "Seeing the Elephant" educational weekends are sold out, but Ed Stewart has just added the weekend of December 7. Click here for details.


Every December, on the second Saturday of the month, we host our yearly holiday open house at ARK 2000. This event is open to all ages. Check our website, Calendar of Events, for more information.



Michele Franko cuts up fruit for more treats. We freeze layers of water, fruit juice, cut up fruit pieces and whole fruit in buckets. Sometimes we even freeze a chain in the bucket and make hanging treats for the elephants.

ARK 2000 sanctuary manager, and elephant supervisor, Brian Busta, is shown here working with Asian bull elephant Nicholas. Brian wants to check Nicholas' foot, so he asked Nicholas to place his foot through the foot hole in the training wall. The training wall is designed especially for Nic's height and size; it allows him to comfortably rest his foot for a foot check. Nicholas knows to bring his foot towards the target pole and voluntarily present his foot for inspection.  Brian rewards him with a treat. "Target training" is part of the protected contact management system used by PAWS for all of the elephants in our care.

Grace. . . aptly named, she handled her illness with grace and dignity.
In Memoriam: Grace the Tiger


Grace came to PAWS along with 38 other tigers from the infamous Colton tiger rescue. PAWS Cofounder Pat Derby, and our veterinarian Dr. Jackie Gai, first traveled to Colton, California, in 2004, to meet with representatives from Fund for Animals who had been caring for the tigers since legal action was taken by California Department of Fish and Game against the owner of the facility. They were introduced to Grace, a Sumatran-Bengal mix tiger with a mysterious skin condition, who was housed in a small cage next to a male tiger named Gus. Attempts had been made to find the cause of her patchy hair loss, but it was not known at the time.


Grace and Gus arrived at PAWS' ARK 2000 sanctuary in 2005. For the first time in their lives they roamed together in a large habitat with grass, trees, rolling hills, and fresh water. On a healthy, nutritious diet, Grace transformed with rich color in her coat, toned muscles, and bright eyes. Her skin lesions persisted, however, and Dr. Gai began work on diagnosing the cause - collecting biopsies, fungal and bacterial cultures, skin scrapings, and prescribing various medications to treat the most likely causes of dermatitis.


Most test results remained inconclusive until 2006, when an astute pathologist (after a second opinion was requested) suggested that Grace may have epitheliotropic lymphoma - an exceedingly rare cancer in domestic cats, and a cancer that has never been reported in tigers. This unusual diagnosis was confirmed by specialists at the University of California, Davis (UCD). Consultations with UCD veterinary dermatologists and oncologists helped to design treatments for Grace to keep her healthy as long as possible. PAWS' dedicated carnivore keepers doted over her, and made sure that she was always comfortable and content.


From the time of her arrival in 2004, until her passing this year, Grace enjoyed a rich, nurturing and comfortable life at PAWS with her companion Gus. Aptly named, she handled her illness with grace and dignity - surprising her team of veterinarians with her strength and longevity. As with many rescued animals, we never knew her actual age as no health records were kept in Colton, but she was estimated to be at least 17 years old and possibly much older. Grace lost her battle with cancer and renal failure on July 11th. We will all miss this gentle-natured and beautiful tiger tremendously.


If you wish to donate in Grace's memory, click here.



PAWS Files Ethics Complaint Against Elephant Rides Company, Have Trunk Will Travel


PAWS' president, Ed Stewart, sent a letter to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), asking its Ethics Board to take action against Have Trunk Will Travel, a controversial company that uses elephants for rides and in circuses. PAWS contends that Have Trunk Will Travel violated the AZA's Mandatory Standards under the Code of Professional Ethics by issuing scurrilous statements to the public about PAWS that are known to be false and misleading.


If the AZA truly holds its members to a higher standard - Have Trunk Will Travel is an AZA Certified Related Facility - it will take swift action against the company. The Ethics Board's actions, should it find Have Trunk Will Travel to be in violation of the Mandatory Standards, range from a letter of reprimand to expulsion from AZA membership for a minimum of two years. You can read PAWS' letter here. 



Hollywood Premiere To Benefit
Free Willy-Keiko Foundation


Keiko the whale was two years old when he was captured off the coast of Iceland and sold to an Icelandic aquarium. Three years later he was sold to Marineland in Ontario, Canada, where he began performing for the public. After developing skin lesions, an indication of poor health, Keiko was then sold to an amusement park in Mexico in 1985. It was during his time at Reino Aventura ("Adventure Kingdom") in Mexico City that he was cast in "Free Willy", the 1993 movie that told the story of a boy who befriends a whale and then frees him.


In celebration of the 20th anniversary release of "Free Willy", the movie that led to Keiko's rehabilitation and return to the wild, a special screening of the film is being held at Hollywood's landmark Egyptian Theatre on August 17, along with the world-premiere screening of the award-winning documentary "Keiko The Untold Story of the Star of Free Willy." This gala event will bring together many of the movers and shakers in current marine mammal protection efforts, as well as the Hollywood stars and production team from the 1993 summer blockbuster "Free Willy."


This celebration of Keiko's life and legacy is a benefit for the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation and will include a "Blue Carpet" ceremony and reception from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; a 1-3 p.m. screening of the movie "Free Willy" followed by a Q&A with producers and cast from both films; and a 3:45 p.m. screening of the documentary "Keiko, The Untold Story of the Star of Free Willy" now available in Blu-Ray/HD.


PAWS president and co-founder, Ed Stewart, has been invited to be a special guest at the "Blue Carpet" ceremony and reception.


For more information, and to purchase tickets, click here.


This event is being sponsored by Earth Island Institute, Free Willy-Keiko Foundation, The Humane Society of the United States, Hollywood Outreach, Heal the Bay, New Regency Enterprises, Warner Bros., and Joshua Records, LLC.


Keiko The Untold Story of The Star of Free Willy HD 2013
Keiko The Untold Story of
The Star of Free Willy HD 2013


In a "blast from the past", click here to read PAWS' 1998 Sanctuary newsletter report on Keiko's arrival in Iceland, written by Mark Berman from Earth Island Institute and one of the cast members of "Keiko, The Untold Story of the Star of Free Willy." 

Mark Berman is the Assistant Director of the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation. Mark joined Earth Island Institute's International Marine Mammal Project in 1991, and helped found and coordinate the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation in 1994. He currently serves as Director of the International Monitoring Program for Dolphin Safe Tuna, a project of FWKF's parent organization, the Earth Island Institute. With teams in 17 countries and the cooperation of over 370 companies, Mark works with the European Dolphin Safe Monitoring Organization to promote and license the registered dolphin-safe logo and campaigns to end fisheries unsafe to dolphins and to stop whaling in Japan.


Ed Stewart. . . On The Radio


Ed Stewart

Hay House Radio, dubbed "the most positive site on the Internet," is a wellspring of new thought, healing and life-affirming innovation from the greatest writers, teachers and speakers of our time. Hay House Founder, Louise L. Hay, is the pioneering foremother of affirmative transformation and a global voice for positive change. Her New York Times best-selling book, "You Can Heal Your Life," has sold over fifty million copies worldwide. The Hay Foundation was established in 1986 to honor Louise and her work by supporting charitable causes she believes in. The Hay Foundation has been a consistent and generous PAWS supporter since helping with the rescue of Nicholas and Gypsy in 2007.


As part of Hay House Radio's "Acts of Kindness: The Hay Foundation Hour" series, host Shelley Anderson sat down with PAWS' president Ed Stewart on July 24, to talk about PAWS' work to help elephants. That interview will air on Friday, Aug. 9, at 9 a.m. PST, and will be rebroadcast throughout the month. For more information visit


PAWS is grateful, and honored, to have the Hay Foundation's support!

PAWS congratulates Lily Tomlin
on her Emmy nomination for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in "An Apology To Elephants" on HBO!


Magician Rick Thomas
Retires Tigers From Vegas Act!


After working with big cats for more than 20 years, Las Vegas magician Rick Thomas has retired his signature tigers, sending them to a public nature park in Arizona. Though Thomas continues to include birds in his act, PAWS felt it was important to recognize this noted entertainer and 2002 Magician of the Year, who opted to do the right thing for the five tigers in his care - Sampson, Mercury, Maximillian, Rocky and Kaos.


Thomas was quoted in the Las Vegas Review-Journal in January, saying it was time for a change - for him and for the tigers. He stated, "I spent a lifetime working with them, raising them, spending my life taking care of them... I wanted to give the tigers what I feel is a better life."


In a business where animals are used and then often callously dumped at roadside zoos or worse, Thomas never bred tigers, and he carefully selected the Arizona facility where his tigers now live, run by a former entertainer who has rejected the use of exotics in entertainment. Thomas says he still cares about the tigers and visits them at the park.


Leading Las Vegas animal advocate and PAWS' friend, Linda Faso, reached out to Thomas in the early 2000s regarding an ordinance that would regulate the ownership and care of exotic animals in Las Vegas. Faso found Thomas receptive to stronger regulations, and she couldn't help but plant the idea that the world of entertainment is no place for a wild animal.


Faso credits the changing times in Las Vegas for Thomas' decision to retire his tigers. "The tiger attack on Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy in 2003, and the meteoric rise in popularity of Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas, has had an impact on the use of exotic animals in entertainment," says Faso. "They are no longer popular or necessary."


PAWS' co-founder, the late Pat Derby, was interviewed by the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2001 for a story on the risks of using big cats in entertainment. She stated:  "When people see endangered animals in that context, it relegates them to another form of entertainment and it doesn't instill respect or fear."


Thomas would likely agree with at least part of Pat's statement. He has publicly stated that "no matter how friendly and tame it seems, a tiger is always one of the most dangerous animals in the world."  He further explained, "They are trained, never tamed." This is an important message that underscores the danger to trainers and the public when wild animals are used in entertainment.


PAWS salutes Rick Thomas for the decision to responsibly and compassionately retire his tigers. Hopefully, other entertainers will follow his lead.

Thank You To Our Amazon Wish List Donors!


Marcia Hernandez: 2 bottles of Milk Thistle for the bears. Ruth E. Schmitter: 2 chest freezers for making frozen elephant treats! Kristen Adams: 1 bottle of Milk Thistle for the bears, 2 bottles of Renal Essentials for the big cats.  Peggy Buckner: 2 bottles of Renal Essentials for the big cats. Anonymous donor: 2 sets of router bits for Xactos. Barbara Greene: 1 case of copy paper for the Galt office. Suzanne G. Brennan: 3 five-pound containers of Psyllium. Rexanne Warner: 2 bottles of Renal Essentials. View our Amazon Wish List here.


Other Donations!


A special thank you goes out to Gay Maestas for dropping off a truck load of apples for the bears!


How can you help?
Adopt A PAWS Animal
If you would like to help our animals, one of the best ways is to become an "adoptive parent," or give a PAWS adoption as a gift to an animal lover in your life. PAWS adoptions are symbolic adoptions only. No animal will be sent!
PAWS Amazon Wish List
PAWS Partnerships

Help us change the life of a victim of captivity by becoming a PAWS Partner.

PAWS partnerships help support our sanctuary operations and the day-to-day care of the animals.

Estates/Planned Giving
You can help us make sure captive wildlife in need of shelter will always have a PAWS sanctuary to call home!
Donate To PAWS
Three ways to give and every donation matters.

Donate Your Vehicle

Learn more 

Tickets for our 2013 Elephant Grape Stomp
go on sale Monday, August 12, 2013.
Three ways to purchase: online using PayPal, by phone using your credit card, or by mail using a credit card or check.
Go to our Calendar of Events page on Monday for complete details.

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PO Box 849
Galt, CA 95632
(209) 745-2606