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Privacy Policy for the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) PAWS assures unambiguously that: (1) PAWS will not trade, share or sell a donor’s personal information with anyone else, nor send donor mailings on behalf of other organizations. (2) In special circumstances, PAWS will only share personal information once the donor has given PAWS specific permission to do so.

Since 1984, The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) has been at the forefront of efforts to rescue and provide appropriate, humane sanctuary for animals who have been the victims of the exotic and performing animal trades. PAWS investigates reports of abused performing and exotic animals, documents cruelty and assists in investigations and prosecutions by regulatory agencies to alleviate the suffering of captive wildlife.



The five elephant habitats at ARK 2000 provide the elephants with hundreds of acres of varied natural terrain to roam, lakes and pools to bathe in, and elephant barns equipped with heated stalls and a indoor therapy pool.
Learn More »



Happy Birthday

to Asian Elephant Nicholas!

Asian elephant Nicholas marked his 25th birthday on December 15. In his 11 years at PAWS we have seen such amazing and beautiful changes in this elephant – underscoring the rehabilitative power of true sanctuaries.

Nicholas had the misfortune of being born into the circus. He was separated from his mother before he was two years old – a time when calves are still entirely dependent on their mothers – and forced to perform unnatural tricks such as riding a tricycle and walking on a balance beam. But this wouldn’t last long. By the time Nicholas was five years old, he would have begun to realize his own strength and challenge his handlers. In circuses this type of natural rebellion is met harshly. Punishment is meted out with the cruel bullhook, a menacing weapon used to control elephants through fear and pain.

Nicholas was labeled as dangerous and unmanageable and essentially “warehoused.” Bull elephants in circuses are often doomed to spend their lives on chains and intensively confined. Fortunately, the company that owned him was involved in a consent agreement with the federal government, which allowed Nicholas and female Asian elephant Gypsy to be transferred to PAWS. Emmy Award-winning game show host Bob Barker provided the generous financial assistance that made the move possible.

When Nicholas first arrived at PAWS he was angry and distrustful of humans. This enormous animal would cringe if you as much as lifted your arm too quickly, expecting to be hit. PAWS’ staff, including Sanctuary Manager Brian Busta, patiently worked with Nicholas to gain his trust. Today, Brian and Nicholas enjoy a special relationship. The once “dangerous and unmanageable” elephant now voluntarily cooperates during training sessions and necessary husbandry and veterinary care. His favorite treat after training is wheat bran, which he carefully gathers up in his trunk, while making a contended “purring” sound.

Nicholas has already come a long way in his young life. PAWS is proud to provide this circus survivor with a far more natural life, including a grassy habitat set among the rolling hills of the ARK 2000 sanctuary. Nicholas is a special elephant who is much valued, loved and respected, and has stolen all of our hearts. Happy birthday, Nicholas!

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African Elephant Lulu, and the Transformational Power of Sanctuary

African elephant Lulu is truly a case study in the transformational power of sanctuaries. She went from an elephant almost paralyzed with fear and anxiety – literally crawling on the ground on her elbows and knees when she saw other elephants – to being an extremely confident member of her elephant group today.

Lulu arrived at ARK 2000 from the San Francisco Zoo in 2005. This was only the second trip of her life. The first was after she was captured in Swaziland at the age of two and sold to the San Francisco Zoo. Lulu was ripped away from her caring mother (who was likely killed in the process) and all that she knew – freedom, the dynamic sights and sounds of the African savanna, and a vast network of elephant kin – and sentenced to a lifetime in captivity.

Even with the best efforts of the elephant staff in San Francisco, life at the zoo was stressful for Lulu. Another elephant frequently bullied and dominated her, often trapping Lulu in a corner with no means of escape or blocking her access to food or a barn doorway. At the same time, Lulu fiercely lashed out at her captors, as well as inanimate objects like the truck tire given to the elephants as “enrichment.” When Lulu first arrived at PAWS she was fearful, becoming so anxious around other elephants that she would squat down low to the ground, making herself as small as possible to avoid conflict.

Above: Lulu, Maggie and Toka

Elephants in nature are highly social animals, but this doesn’t mean that all individuals will get along when forced to live together in captivity. Wild female elephants live with their grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters and their offspring. In contrast, captive elephants are usually strangers from entirely different countries. It's hard to blame those elephants who act out aggressively, as they are merely responding to the dysfunctional environment of captivity – worlds away from the life they were meant to lead.

It was PAWS’ co-founder, the late Pat Derby, who largely helped Lulu overcome her fear. Pat and PAWS President and Co-founder Ed Stewart believed in the power of sanctuary to heal past trauma, and to help transform elephants into the magnificent wild animals they are by giving them a spacious natural environment, loving care, and the freedom to choose where to go and what to do — a safe place to just be elephants again. In Lulu’s case, it took time, constant attention, and the special touch that Pat had with animals. Slowly but surely, Lulu relaxed and became more comfortable with her new elephant companions. Pat’s magic touch didn’t end with her untimely death from cancer in 2013. Lulu's confidence has continued to grow, and her personality to blossom.

Seeing how far this special elephant has come, Ed calls the changes a miracle. Today, Lulu has no fear. She confidently heads up her elephant group that includes Maggie and T0ka as they traverse the hills of their expansive habitat, foraging on grass and trees, mudding themselves, exploring or taking a nap. To be clear, Lulu is not the matriarch, a word that is often misused by captive institutions. Matriarchs are the leaders of their family groups. According to ElephantVoices, the matriarch is generally the oldest and largest adult female family member who helps ensure the group’s survival by using her courage and wisdom in times of crisis, her memory of places and individuals during difficult times, and her social skills to maintain and reinforce the close bonds within her family.

At age 52, Lulu is the second oldest African elephant in North America. Had she been left in her native home, it's likely Lulu would still be reproducing and bringing more elephants into her family and the greater elephant population.

Lulu may be our smallest African elephant at PAWS, but she’s made the biggest transformation of all.

PAWS is honored to know and care for this very special elephant. We thank all of our supporters for helping us provide Lulu – affectionately called "Little Lu" by Ed, Pat, and the elephant staff – and all of the elephants at PAWS with as close to a natural habitat home as possible.

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PAWS' co-founder, the late Pat Derby, and African elephant 71, walking through the hills at ARK 2000. Pat and Ed rescued 71 in 1986; she was PAWS' founding elephant. 71 died in 2008 - read about

her here.

Pat Derby: A Life Dedicated

to Protecting Captive Wildlife

Pat Derby, co-founder of the Performing Animal Welfare Society, was a champion for captive wild and exotic animals, particularly those used in “entertainment.” Working side by side with her partner, current PAWS’ president and co-founder Ed Stewart, they set a new standard of care for captive wildlife, including establishing the first elephant sanctuary in the U.S. Sadly, Pat lost a long battle with cancer and passed away on February 15, 2013. But her spirit continues to live in PAWS’ rescue, sanctuary, and advocacy work.

Pat’s bravery and vision for a better life for captive wildlife helped lay the groundwork for the profound changes we are seeing today, including the public’s increasing rejection of the use of wild animals in entertainment, whether elephants and tigers in circuses or orcas in marine parks, and the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus coming to an end. Her battle against the use of cruel elephhant bullhooks has resulted in statewide bans in California and Rhode Island, with PAWS playing an integral role in their passage.

Pat remains an inspiration to everyone at PAWS and to the greater animal protection community. Her determination and fighting spirit continue to drive PAWS’ efforts to create a more just and humane world for captive wild animals, each and every day.


At PAWS Sanctuaries rescued animals live in peaceful, natural habitats, free from fear, chains, and harsh confinement. They are at complete liberty to act out natural behaviors in the comfort of their individually designed enclosures. PAWS' animals are not bred, traded, sold, rented or forced to perform in any way. PAWS educates the entertainment industry, public officials and the general public in humane care and treatment of captive wildlife.

Through our public awareness campaigns, more and more actively concerned individuals are becoming aware of the problems inherent in the breeding of wildlife in captivity and the use of animals in entertainment. Learn More »



A Time for Thanks

It is with heartfelt appreciation that we thank:

You, our supporters, who touch the lives of each and every animal at PAWS and make our work possible.

PAWS' dedicated staff who work so hard to ensure the health and welfare of the animals.

Our committed volunteers, who give of their time and talents, come rain or shine.

The generous companies and individuals who provide in-kind services in support of our mission.

All of the animals we care for at PAWS, who teach us the importance of preserving wild places and protecting wild animals where they live.

We wish you all the very best in 2019!

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2019 "Seeing the Elephant"

Dates Announced

If you’ve ever wanted to experience elephants as they live in a natural habitat sanctuary and learn more about these amazing animals, you’ll want to reserve your spot for PAWS’ educational “Seeing the Elephant” weekend. This one-of-a-kind program, led by PAWS’ President and Co-Founder Ed Stewart and Sanctuary Manager Brian Busta, usually sells out. So make your reservations now!

The program takes place at PAWS’ ARK 2000 sanctuary, situated in the rolling hills of California’s scenic Gold Country. Participants will observe PAWS' eight resident elephants and gain insight into their personal histories, individual personalities, and the special care required for the planet’s largest land mammal.

One- and two-day options are available. The one-day Saturday program focuses on elephants only and includes lunch. Participants in the two-day package, which includes a two-night stay in a charming bed and breakfast, return on Sunday to learn about PAWS' big cats and bears.

Click here for available dates, pricing, and to learn more about the "Seeing the Elephant" weekends. Contact PAWS' Director of Programs Kim Gardner to book your visit. Call (916) 539-5305 or email We're sorry but this program is not suitable for those under the age of 15.

Gift certificates are available.

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The Importance of True Sanctuary

By Catherine Doyle

PAWS Director of Science, Research and Advocacy

I recently heard about a comment made by a zoo employee, who said that PAWS’ ARK 2000 sanctuary is “just a bigger zoo.” My immediate response was: How superficial! That person really doesn’t understand what a sanctuary is all about. Obviously, space is important, especially when you’re caring for the planet’s largest land mammal. Elephants need room to move and stay healthy. But there are many factors that distinguish PAWS from other captive institutions.

Animals come first

We are here to serve the wild animals in our care; their welfare is our primary concern. PAWS holds the highest standards of care for the animals, provided by a dedicated caregiver staff and veterinary team. The animals are cared for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and treated with the respect they deserve.

Different role of confinement

At ARK 2000 we use confinement to protect and better serve the animals, rather than control and display them for human amusement. PAWS openly acknowledges that even the greatly improved conditions we provide are still not enough to meet the needs of wild animals. As PAWS President Ed Stewart has said, "The only “state of the art” place for elephants, bears, big cats and other animals is the wild."

Safe haven for life

A true captive wildlife sanctuary does not breed, buy, trade, sell or otherwise exploit animals. The animals who come to ARK 2000 will remain in our care for the rest of their lives. Important social bonds are respected and will remain undisturbed.

Focus on the individual

Our animals do not perform, and the public is never in direct contact with them – no selfies, feeding, or other so-called “educational” encounters. PAWS' focus is on the individual for the sake of that animal only. They are not ambassadors for their species nor are they on display to send a message. If there is any message, it is that the situations these animals were rescued from, and the abuse and deprivations some of them suffered, should not be allowed to exist.

Dynamic spaces

Larger spaces allow for more environmental complexity and more choice for the animals, whether it is engaging in self-directed activities or choosing to be closer to or farther from companions. At ARK 2000 the animals are immersed in complex natural areas that change with the seasons, effecting different behavioral opportunities and sensory experiences.

Quiet of nature

A large, natural habitat sanctuary offers subtle benefits: the quiet of living in nature, more intrusion-free lives, the relaxation that comes from no longer being exposed to the pressures of close confinement and social stress, privacy, and expanded visual, auditory and olfactory experiences.

Emphasis on rehabilitation

PAWS strives to help elephants be elephants, tigers be tigers, and bears be bears. Natural environments filled with grass, shady trees, bushes and lakes allow the animals to actively engage in instinctive behaviors such as foraging, swimming, exploring, climbing, socializing, or simply napping in the sun. Our patient and caring staff is there to support the animals and enable their remarkable transformation to the vibrant and thriving animals they are today.

View of captivity

PAWS seeks to create a deeper understanding of the problematic nature of captivity for wild animals and works to end the systems of abuse and exploitation that have created the need for sanctuaries to begin with. Captivity is not normal and we should not idealize it, even with the best of conditions. Wild animals belong in the wild, protected and respected.

As you can see, PAWS is much, much more than just a “bigger zoo.” It is a place that offers a new lease on life for the elephants, big cats, bears and other wild animals currently in our care – and those yet to come. It is also a place where each animal is respected as an individual with her or his own inherent value, and whose welfare and needs will always come first. 

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Thank you December Amazon

"Wish List" Donors

Carol L. Johnson: two gallons of Red Cell. Barbara (last name not given): two 5 lb. bags of Missing Link Ultimate Skin and Coat. Lisa Klotz: one bottle of Renal Essentials #60. Dan Brinkman: one 10x10 pop-up tent. Anonymous Donors: two bottles of CosequinDS, 132#; five bags of diced pineapple; five bags of diced papaya; one 50 lb. bag of peanuts in shell; one 20 lb. tub of Psyllium; one bottle Azodyl #90; one bottle Renal Essentials #60.



View wish list items that are needed, but not included on our Amazon list here.

Performing Animal Welfare Society
PO Box 849, Galt, CA 95632

(209) 745-2606 Office/Sanctuary
(209) 745-1809 fax

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