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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 provides 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 »




Winter Greetings From PAWS

Fall 2014 was unusually warm and dry, but finally the rain came and now the rolling hills at ARK 2000 are graced with new, gloriously green grasses. The elephants didn't miss a beat and have been grazing to their hearts' content on this lush delicacy. Each elephant has his or her own special technique for eating grass. African elephant Thika shows extra finesse - she picks a bundle of grass, then, while holding the bouquet with the tip of her trunk, expertly taps it on the ground, and using one foot bumps off any clods of dirt that stick to the roots before eating it. Soft new grass makes a luxurious bed, and on sunny days the habitats are often dotted with contentedly dozing elephants.

As the daylight begins to fade, and twilight falls, African lions Sheba, Bambek, and Camba issue deep, throaty roars as if to bid the world good night. The winter night sky at ARK 2000 is a spectacular sight, with a rich tapestry of bright stars. While most of the tigers are asleep in their dens, the night keepers often report seeing at least one intrepid explorer wide awake, patrolling his or her habitat by moonlight.

At our Galt sanctuary, the smaller animals are frisky in the cool weather. Robert the bobcat climbs high onto his rooftop perch and surveys the goings-on as keepers rake fallen leaves in the sanctuary. Paka the serval makes her rounds after breakfast, finally settling in a bed of straw in a sunny spot. Jackie coyote's winter coat is thick and lustrous, and her ears prick up at the slightest sound. Rufus (above left) the lynx relishes the cool, crisp mornings and roams the habitat while companion lynx Misha prefers to sleep late in her cozy hay-bedded den.

Emu and Simitar-horned Oryx live at PAWS Amanda Blake Memorial Wildlife Refuge in Herald, Calif.

The animals at the Amanda Blake Memorial Wildlife Refuge (Stalker the emu is pictured above) seem invigorated by this time of year, too. The Scimitar-horned oryx herd have plenty of fresh, tender grass, and the small marsh in their habitat is coming back to life with the influx of rainfall. After grazing all morning, they lounge together in the sun. The emu, always active and curious, hunt for bugs and bathe in occasional rain showers.

At PAWS, we humans delight in the changing seasons and their effect upon the natural landscape. Winter sunlight has an almost magical quality, casting long shadows while making the warm colors of the oak trees glow. We also enjoy watching the animals respond to nature's bounty. Bears, when not napping in their cozy dens, stroll through their habitats, noses to the ground, in search of acorns.

Elephants joyfully play in mud wallows, and African elephant Iringa seemed especially delighted to wriggle and dig in the mud created after a recent rain. Asian bull elephant Prince often takes a swim in his pool when it rains, and he uses his long tusks to dig into the soft mud and earth.

January is a time of renewal and inspiration, a time to set goals and build momentum to take on the exciting challenges and projects that lie ahead. We are profoundly grateful to you, our supporters, who make possible everything that we do. Your commitment of support, large or small, fuels our ability to provide excellent care for the animals that call PAWS home, and also supports our critically important advocacy work on behalf of captive wild animals everywhere.

African elephant Lulu (left) watches over Maggie (center) and Mara as the elephants nap on a sunny hillside at PAWS' ARK 2000 captive wildlife sanctuary in San Andreas, Calif. Click on the video below to watch African elephants Iringa and Toka browsing in the trees.



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.


PAWS Remembers Pat Derby

It's hard to believe it's been two years since the passing of PAWS co-founder Pat Derby, who died on February 15, 2013, after battling cancer. Pat’s indomitable spirit and passionate drive continues to guide us in everything we do today, from animal care to advocacy. Pat co-founded PAWS with Ed Stewart, who continues to lead and build the organization, so that wild animals used in entertainment have a true advocate and a place of safety and sanctuary.

Once a famous exotic animal trainer in Hollywood, Pat saw that animals were suffering and dying for people’s entertainment. This is what led her to write her tell-all book, The Lady and Her Tiger, which exposed the dark side of animal training in the entertainment industry. She knew that trainers never abused the animals in front of everyone on a film set – it always happened in private. Animals were sometimes savagely beaten so a trainer could assure a quick and consistent performance once the cameras were rolling. Though many people in the entertainment industry knew what was happening, Pat was the first to take action and inform the public of the real price that animals pay for their entertainment.

“The work that Pat started over 30 years ago is more vital than ever,” said Ed Stewart, recalling how he and Pat carefully documented the horrific lives of animals used in live entertainment, especially circuses, and started the worldwide effort to end their suffering. “Pat started the war on circuses that use wild animals. She was THE voice for lions and tigers in tiny traveling cages and elephants chained by their legs in trucks and railroad cars,” said Stewart. “Pat Derby was proud to be ‘enemy number one’ to the circus industry.”

Unfortunately, turning a blind eye to the suffering that animals endure for entertainment continues today in film and beyond – from orcas to elephants, from TV advertisements to roadside zoos to circuses and elephant rides. Under Ed Stewart’s strong direction PAWS is tackling these issues and advocating for captive exotic and wild animals – just as Pat wished. She believed in not only giving animals sanctuary, but vigorously opposing the powerful industries that exploit them, something PAWS continues to do. We educate the public, work to pass key legislation, and use the media to spread the word about the cruel training and use of elephants, big cats, bears, nonhuman primates and other wild animals who suffer a lifetime for a few moments of “entertainment.”

Pat was a remarkable woman, a fearless warrior for the animals who made a real difference for captive wildlife. Everything she did was for the animals – and we continue to honor her legacy each and every day.

The following videos were created in honor of Pat Derby and shown during the PAWS 30th Anniversary Gala and the International Captive Wildlife Conference in November 2014.


The early years. (click on the picture to play video.)


It had to begin with elephants. (click on the picture to play video.)



African elephants Lulu and Maggie


2014 Was Another

Good Year For PAWS

As we welcome in the New Year, PAWS reflects on the memorable events and key accomplishments that took place in 2014 and made our 30th anniversary year so special. We look forward to achieving even more great things for captive wild animals in 2015, with your involvement and generous support.


PAWS hosted California Assemblyman Frank Bigelow and Supervisor Cliff Edson of the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors at our ARK 2000 natural habitat sanctuary. They saw first-hand the good work that PAWS does for captive wildlife and learned more about our programs.


PAWS president Ed Stewart (left) was featured in an article on elephant intelligence in the Scientific American, "The Science Is In: Elephants Are Even Smarter Than We Realized," which described the exceptional cognitive capabilities of elephants, such as empathy, a sense of self, cooperative problem solving, and mourning their dead. But more importantly, the article questioned how we can justify keeping these very complex beings in captivity.

PAWS took an active role in the fight against the sale of elephant ivory in the U.S. In February we joined forces with animal protection and conservation organizations around the world in providing testimony in support of bans in Hawaii, New York and New Jersey. The New York and New Jersey bans were later passed into law.

PAWS marked the one-year anniversary of the passing of our co-founder and friend Pat Derby. We remembered Pat's fearless advocacy for captive wild animals and her big dreams that became reality, such as the creation of PAWS' ARK 2000 natural habitat sanctuary for captive wildlife and passing laws to better protect performing animals. Pat's presence is very much with us in all that we do for the animals.


Success! PAWS' hard work paid off when the San Diego County Fair announced it would not have elephant rides this year. Ed Stewart stated, "Elephant rides promote nothing but disrespect for elephants at a time when we need to get serious about saving them in the wild."

Ed Stewart was among a group of elephant experts invited to attend a meeting at the Longleat Safari Park in England to discuss the future of Anne, an abused circus elephant retired to the park with the support of the public and animal protection organizations. PAWS is pleased to learn that the zoo has acted on suggested improvements for Anne's enclosure. The zoo reports that she will soon be moving into a new barn that includes a soft soil floor for the arthritic 60-year-old elephant. Improvements to the outdoor area are in progress. Click here to read Ed's account of the meeting and issues surrounding Anne's situation in his article, "When Sanctuary Is Not A Sanctuary", in PAWS' March 2014 newsletter.

PAWS made national headlines for its recognition of the Los Angeles Shriners for canceling its traditional circus and going animal-free for the first time in 88 years. The Shrine Circus had been the target of protests for years due to the use of performing elephants, elephant rides and tigers.

PAWS participated in the first-ever Global March for Lions in Los Angeles. PAWS' director of science, research and advocacy, Catherine Doyle (above), was a featured speaker at the event, which aimed to bring attention to the plight of lions in captivity and in the wild, with a special focus on the abhorrent practice of raising lions for canned hunts in South Africa where they are shot point-blank in a contained area. PAWS was the first to investigate canned hunts in California and initiated the 1992 law that ended the practice in the state.

Click here to read more about PAWS' memorable events and key accomplishments in 2014. . .






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 »



Coming soon. . .


Tyke Elephant Outlaw

Honolulu, August 20, 1994. Tyke the elephant goes on a rampage. What happens next will traumatize a city and ignite a global battle over the use of performing animals.

Tyke Elephant Outlaw is a gripping and emotionally charged documentary about one elephant’s break for freedom and the profound questions it raised about our connection to other species.

Read more about the documentary here. . .



Elephant painting #8

"Last drink before bedtime"

Acrylic 8x10


100 Elephant Paintings In 100 Days

Artist Nancy Hakala is an artist with a passion for elephants. This love of elephants has to led to her partnering with PAWS for the project "100 Elephant Paintings in 100 Days." Starting in March, Nancy began painting and posting one original elephant painting — one each day for 100 consecutive days. Paintings will be done in a variety of sizes and mediums.

All paintings are $100 each (plus sales tax, insurance and shipping/handling). $50 from each sale will be donated to PAWS. Click here to view and purchase paintings, and for more information on the "100 Elephant Paintings" project.


Elephant painting #5

"Baby Face"

Watercolor 9x6




PAWS Credits California Bullhook Bans

As Turning Point In Circus Decision

To Stop Using Elephants

San Andreas, Calif. (March 5, 2015) – The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), which founded and operates the nation's first elephant sanctuary, is applauding the news that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus will end the use of elephants in its traveling shows. PAWS is attributing the decision, in great part, to the Los Angeles City Council’s unanimous decision in 2013 to ban the use of bullhooks – a menacing weapon resembling a fireplace poker that is used to control elephants through fear and pain – as circuses had stated they would no longer visit the city.

"The Los Angeles bullhook ban was really the tipping point for elephants in circuses,” said PAWS president Ed Stewart, “and PAWS is proud to have played a key role in passing that game-changing ordinance.”

California’s Oakland City Council followed Los Angeles in passing its own bullhook ban in December 2014. Other cities across the U.S. were gearing up to consider similar legislation when Ringling announced its decision.

“We are thrilled at the news that the end is in sight for the use of elephants in the largest U.S. circus,” said Stewart. “This is an historic announcement. It signals the beginning of the end of the use of elephants in entertainment.”

“PAWS was the first organization to investigate and expose the horrific lives of elephants and other animals used in entertainment,” said Stewart, recalling how he and his partner, the late Pat Derby, began documenting the use of animals used in live entertainment, especially circuses, and started the worldwide effort to end their suffering.

Derby, a former Hollywood animal trainer, first championed the cause of performing wild animals nearly 40 years ago following the publication of her tell-all book, The Lady and Her Tiger, which exposed the behind-the-scenes abuse of wild animals used in entertainment. Stewart stated, "Pat was THE voice for lions and tigers in cramped traveling cages and elephants chained by their legs in trucks and railroad cars."

Since its founding 31 years ago, PAWS has continued its investigations, public awareness campaigns and legislative advocacy on behalf of performing animals.

PAWS cares for nine elephants at its 2300-acre natural habitat ARK 2000 sanctuary in San Andreas, California, along with tigers, lions, bears and black leopard. Among those are former circus elephants who now spend their days roaming spacious habitats and sunning themselves on grassy hillsides, free from chains and bullhooks.

Stewart concluded: “This decision should set an example for anyone who uses elephants for entertainment, including in circuses, rides, and in film, advertising, and television. It’s all just wrong.”



PAWS Announces Death

of Beloved Asian Elephant Wanda

San Andreas, Calif. (February 12, 2015) – The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) today announced the death of much-loved Asian elephant Wanda at the ARK 2000 captive wildlife sanctuary in San Andreas, California. She was humanely euthanized on Wednesday, following a long history of arthritis and foot disease, the leading reasons for euthanizing elephants in captivity. At age 57, she was among the oldest Asian elephants in North America.

“Every elephant at PAWS is special, but Wanda stood out for her adventurous spirit. She will be very much missed,” said PAWS president Ed Stewart. “I’m proud we were able to give her a more natural and enriched life at the PAWS sanctuary for nearly 10 years.”

Wanda was born in the wild in Asia around 1958, and captured at a young age to be put on display in the United States. During her lifetime, she was moved from one location to another at least seven times, including to Disneyland (according to the Asian Elephant North American Regional Studbook), a circus, zoos in Texas, and then the Detroit Zoo in Michigan.

The Detroit Zoo, which is recognized as a leader in animal welfare as well as providing sanctuary for animals in need of rescue, brought about the two greatest changes in Wanda’s life. Until her transfer to Detroit, keepers trained her with the bullhook – a menacing weapon resembling a fireplace poker that is used to control elephants through fear and pain – and kept her on chains. The zoo instead utilized a more progressive and humane management system based on positive reinforcement training that greatly improved Wanda’s quality of life and freed her from chains and bullhooks.

In 2004 the Detroit Zoo decided to end its elephant program for the good of the elephants, after determining it could not provide the conditions necessary to meet their needs, such as a warmer climate and far more space. The zoo opted to relocate Wanda and fellow Asian elephant Winky to PAWS’ ARK 2000 sanctuary in April 2005. (Winky passed away in 2008.)

“Everyone at PAWS felt a special obligation to the people of Detroit who loved Wanda so much,” stated Stewart. “We provided her with a life that was closer to what nature intended for elephants, which was the Detroit Zoo’s goal in sending Wanda to PAWS. We did our very best for Wanda every minute of every day she was at the sanctuary. She was very special to us too.”

Upon arriving at ARK 2000, Wanda wasted no time in getting to know her new elephant companions and joyfully exploring her new home that was unlike any captive facility she had ever experienced before. At PAWS she loved to forage for natural vegetation in the sanctuary’s sprawling habitat, nap in soft grass on the hillside or under a tree, and take therapeutic swims in the lake. The moderate California climate allowed her to enjoy these activities year-round.

After another Asian elephant, Gypsy, later arrived at the sanctuary, it was discovered that the two had been in a circus together more than 20 years earlier. The elephants instantly remembered one another and could always be found close together. Even in death their friendship endured. After Wanda passed away, Gypsy approached her friend and stayed at her side for a period of time, gently touching her body and “speaking” to her in soft rumbles, before slowly walking away.

Throughout the years, PAWS developed a close personal relationship with the Detroit Zoo staff. Executive Director and CEO Ron Kagan, keepers, curators and veterinarians regularly visited Wanda, with whom they had a deep, loving bond. PAWS staff often sent photos to Detroit of Wanda roaming the habitat, playing in the lake, or simply soaking up the sun

Stewart concluded: “I want to thank the animal care staff from the Detroit Zoo and past and present staff of PAWS for changing Wanda’s life so dramatically and giving her the opportunity to just be an elephant again.”

As is customary for all elephants that pass away at PAWS, a necropsy is being performed on Wanda’s remains by pathologists from U.C. Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and tissue samples sent to a laboratory.


California Introduces Bill To

Ban Sales of Ivory and Rhino Horn

PAWS is starting off the year actively working to ensure passage of an important bill introduced this month by California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Senator Ricardo Lara that would ban the sale of ivory and rhino horn.

Elephants and rhinos are being poached at alarming rates - an average of 96 elephants are killed each day in Africa, and more than 1,000 rhinos out of a remaining 29,000 in the wild were poached in South Africa alone in 2014. Unless action is taken now, these iconic species are headed toward extinction.

California has prohibited the sale of ivory since 1977, but a loophole rendered the law unenforceable. AB 96 would close that loophole and allow the Department of Fish and Wildlife to enforce the law, with violators subject to criminal and civil penalties. Read the bill here.

California follows New York as the second largest market for the sale of illegal ivory in the United States. Illegal sales of ivory are estimated to have doubled in California over the past eight years. New York State and New Jersey recently enacted strong prohibitions on the sale of ivory and rhino horns, and the federal government has proposed stronger ivory trade and import regulations. Now it's time for California to step up and protect elephants and rhinos.

How Californians can help

If you live in California, please call your Assembly member and urge him or her to co-author AB 96. Follow up your call with an email. Click here to locate your Assembly member. Follow the link to find your Assembly member's contact information, including phone number. You can send a message via an on-line contact form.

Calls and emails should come from constituents only (e.g., people who live and vote in their districts).

The following Assembly members have already co-sponsored the bill: Bloom, Bonta, Hancock, Leno, Levine, Maienschein, McCarty, Pan, Rendon and Williams. If your assembly member appears on this list, you can simply thank her or him for this important support.

Sample phone message:

I am requesting that Assemblymember (name) become a co-author for AB 96, the bill that would end the sale of ivory and rhino horn in our state. We need to decrease the demand in order to stop the decimation of these animals, who are headed toward extinction.

Sample email message:

As a supporter of the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), which cares for 10 rescued and relocated elephants in San Andreas, California, I was shocked to learn that our state is the second largest market in the U.S. for illegal ivory and rhino horn sales - and that illegal ivory sales have doubled in the last eight years.

I respectfully urge you to co-author AB 96, the bill that would end the sale of ivory and rhino horn in California. AB 96 will close the loophole in existing state law that prevents its enforcement.

An average of 96 elephants are killed each day in Africa, and more than 1,000 rhinos out of a remaining 29,000 in the wild were poached in South Africa alone in 2014. The illegal wildlife trade has been linked to organized crime and terrorist groups.

It's time that California takes action to end this cruel trade by decreasing the demand that drives it. Unless action is taken now, these iconic species are headed toward extinction. Please co-author AB 96 and help ensure that elephants and rhinos share this planet with us for generations to come.

May I please hear a response from you on this important legislation?



For more information on AB 96, email PAWS' director of science, research and advocacy, Catherine Doyle, at



Thank You February

Amazon "Wish List" Donors

Chris and Gail Gorske: one 30 lb. bag Blue Buffalo dog food. Joel Reiff: one 40 lb. box of oranges (donation in memory of Wanda). Kristina Wiley, DDS: GoPro Smartree extension pole. Mary Ann Shumaker: one 40 lb. box of oranges (donation in memory of Wanda). Kary Pearson: two shovels for the elephant barns (donation in memory of Wanda). Gil Garcia: one tub of Vionate powder, one bag of Blue Buffalo dog food. Patricia Connelly: two boxes of 9x12 envelopes; one box of handing file folders. Rexanne Warner: one shovel for the elephant barns. Pamela Mattson: one bottle of RenAvast; one bag of Blue Buffalo dog food. Anonymous donors: one gallon Red Cell supplement, three rakes, one box of small nitrile gloves. Barbara Greene: one box of medium nitrile gloves; one box of large nitrile gloves. Maggie M. Rufo: three pruning saws for cutting elephant browse. Kaela Palfini: seven boxes Raisin Bran; five boxes Frosted Flakes; two jars of peanuts; three loaves of bread; seven packages of Fig Newtons + $300 cash donation. Dianne Tucker: one box of pillow cases for Ferguson. Patricia Connelly: three bags of Natural Balance cat food for the rescued office and feral cats. Sally Kain: one 40 lb. box of oranges.


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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