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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)


Comment from bluhawkk
Time September 25, 2008 at 10:51 am

Thanks for your story on 71 and PAWS. I am a long-time supporter of this sanctuary.

Video of 71 arriving at PAWS in 1986. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Nl1lq9b1a4

Since that time PAWS has been able to expand with an additional 2300 acres located in San Andreas, CA, providing greater space for all its rescued exotics.

At 26 year 71 was still young having another 40 years or so. Necropsy showed pancreatitis as the cause of death and may have been the result of her early years.

Comment from MG
Time September 26, 2008 at 2:07 am

Quality is always better than quantity and it looks like she had 21 great years after rescue.
Great video of her arrival BTW.