The class of “71”
Slated to be sold to a circus after her mother was killed by hunters, a baby elephant from Africa arrived in the U.S. a quarter of a century ago in chains.
She had no name, just a number.
It was 71.
Instead of ending up at a circus, she was purchased by a wealthy landowner in Florida and lived on his estate, but — having been taken so young from her mother — she was malnourished, chronically sick and nearly died.
In an attempt to save her life, Pat Derby and Ed Stewart, founders of the Performing Animal Welfare Society in California, offered to give her sanctuary.
When she arrived at PAWS, again in chains, veterinarians said she would never be healthy, but Derby and Stewart bottle fed the elephant — whose name would remain simply “71” — until she was strong enough to eat on her own. They slept with her for months.
“When 71 first arrived and walked out of her crate,” Derby recalls, “we immediately cut the chains from around her neck. We promised her right then she would never again be chained. She would never be beaten. She would never have to do anything she didn’t want to do. We kept that promise to her.”
71 peacefully passed away on Friday, September 19, PAWS reports. She was 26 years old.
“71 was the cornerstone of PAWS. She was the reason for everything that guides PAWS’ founding mission. She leaves a legacy for the other African elephants, Mara, Ruby, Lulu and Maggie, whom she led,” Derby said.
Derby believes captivity — the practice of capturing elephants, tearing them away from their families, forcing them to live in confined spaces, and using often cruel techniques to train them — is ultimately what destroys them.
“I hope everyone who hears 71’s story will remember her when they see elephants languishing in small spaces, rocking and swaying, deprived of their freedom and their families,” she said.
Founded in 1984 by Derby, a former Hollywood animal trainer (“Flipper”, “Daktari”, “Gunsmoke”, “Lassie”, “Gentle Ben”) and her partner, Ed Stewart, PAWS maintains three sanctuaries for captive wildlife – 30 acres in Galt, California, 100 acres in Herald, California and 2,300 acres in San Andreas, California.
As an animal trainer in Hollywood — one whose methods were based on trust as opposed to fear — Derby was shocked at what she calls rampant neglect and abuse. Her autobiography, Lady and Her Tiger, was the first expose of the harsh training methods that she says once were standard in the entertainment industry.
PAWS is dedicated to the protection of performing animals, to providing sanctuary to abused, abandoned and retired captive wildlife, to enforcing the best standards of care for all captive wildlife, to the preservation of wild species and their habitat and to promoting public education about captive wildlife issues.
(Photo courtesy of PAWS)
Posted by John Woestendiek September 25th, 2008 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 71, animal, captive, captivity, circus, elephant, hollywood, movies, pat derby, performing animal welfare society, sanctuary, wildlife, zoo