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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 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.
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PAWS Celebrates 35 Years of Rescue, Sanctuary and Advocacy

The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) has reached yet another milestone – 35 years of working to save, care for, and advocate on behalf of captive wild animals – including elephants, bears, and big cats. And we owe it all to you, our supporters, who have been at our side throughout our amazing journey to protect these animals.

Founded in 1984 by PAWS President Ed Stewart and the late Pat Derby, PAWS has become a vital and influential organization, recognized worldwide for its expertise in the care of captive wildlife. PAWS has rescued and cared for hundreds of animals throughout the years at our three sanctuaries, from elephants, lions, tigers and bears, to monkeys, exotic antelope and emu. They have come from the entertainment industry, circuses and zoos; some were once someone's exotic pet.

Among PAWS' greatest achievements is the creation of the 2,300-acre ARK 2000 sanctuary in California, which opened in 2002. PAWS established a new model for the care of captive wild animals by providing large expanses of space set in nature where big cats, bears and elephants could safely roam grassy, tree-studded hills and engage in behaviors that are important to them. More natural environments, paired with expert husbandry and veterinary care and the monitoring of animals 24 hours a day/seven days a week, make ARK 2000 an important example that others can emulate. While PAWS does not believe in keeping wild animals captive, it is imperative that those animals already in captivity be provided with the best lives possible.

While PAWS' primary focus is the rescue and care of captive wild animals, advocacy is another important part of our work. PAWS has always recognized that the only way to end the suffering of captive wild animals is to address the root problems: unrestricted breeding of exotic animals, private ownership of exotic and indigenous wild animals, and the use of wild animals as entertainment.

Pat and Ed were at the forefront of efforts to investigate, document and expose circus cruelty, including brutal training, intensive confinement, and constant transport. In a 2011 article, "The Cruelest Show on Earth," Mother Jones magazine called Pat the circus’ “no. 1 antagonist.”

It’s exciting to see realization of the groundwork that PAWS has laid throughout the years, with public sentiment turning against the use of wild animals in entertainment and protective legislation being passed at the local and state levels. Just this year, New Jersey passed the first statewide ban on the use of wild animals in traveling shows, and Illinois and New York passed statewide prohibitions on the use of elephants in circuses in 2017 — bills for which PAWS provided expert support.

PAWS has long championed efforts to end the use of bullhooks, the menacing weapons used to control elephants through fear and pain. When Pat and Ed rescued their first elephant, "71", in 1986, they vowed to never chain her or use a bullhook to manage her — and they never did, even though it was standard practice at the time. (The more humane "protected contact" management method was later developed and is now used exclusively at PAWS.)

PAWS co-sponsored the successful effort to prohibit cruel elephant bullhooks in California (enacted in 2017) and teamed up to ban bullhooks in Rhode Island. In California, we worked alongside The Humane Society of the United States and the Oakland Zoo to pass this important bill. No California zoo with elephants was using bullhooks at the time, showing how far we've come. But we still have farther to go. There are still zoos using bullhooks in other states.

We’ve also seen the world’s largest circus, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, first abandon its trademark elephant acts and then bring down its final curtain, due in part to PAWS’ successful efforts to pass the first bullhook bans in Los Angeles and Oakland, California. These were the first big cities to establish regulations that affected the larger circuses and directly impacted their star attractions.

PAWS continues its advocacy efforts on behalf of captive wildlife, with an increased focus on big cats and bears. We also focus on education, including through our biennial International Captive Wildlife Conference, "Wild Animals in Captivity" college outreach program, the PAWS e-newsletter, and ARK 2000's "Seeing the Elephant" and Open House events.

As we look back, you might say it’s been a wild ride! We sincerely thank you for your support and invite you to continue working side-by-side with us in this 35th year and beyond. There is so much more to be accomplished for captive wildlife, and so many more animals in need of rescue. Together we can change the world for captive wild animals!

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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 »





More Baby Elephants to be Exported From Zimbabwe to China

This Must Stop!

Zimbabwe is planning to send 35 wild-caught baby elephants, traumatically separated from their mothers, to a lifetime of suffering in substandard Chinese zoos. PLEASE TAKE ACTION NOW TO STOP THIS TRAVESTY!

Click here to see what you can do to help.

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Big Cat Protection Bill

Introduced in Congress

PAWS is part of a coalition of animal protection groups applauding the introduction of the Big Cat Public Safety Act, H.R. 1380, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Championed by Representatives Michael Quigley of Illinois, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and 52 bipartisan co-sponsors, the bill would keep dangerous big cats like tigers, lions, leopards and cougars out of private hands and prohibit the use of big cat cubs for the public to pet, feed, take photos and play with. Cub petting attractions cause immeasurable suffering and threaten human safety. “Surplus” big cats produced by these operations can fuel the illegal market for animal parts and seriously undermine efforts to conserve these iconic animals. Currently, there is a patchwork of state laws regulating private ownership of big cats – and some states have no laws at all. A federal law is necessary to end the unregulated trade and nationwide abuse of big cats.

Read the press release here. Contact your U.S. representative today and ask that s/he support the Big Cat Public Safety Act.

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Alka Tiger Gets a Check-up

Two years ago Alka (above), a 20-year-old female tiger who lives at our ARK 2000 sanctuary, was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, a condition that is common in both wild and domestic older cats. Since her diagnosis she has benefited from special medications and nutritional supplements to support kidney function, as well as extra TLC from PAWS' staff.

Regular health checkups are part of the excellent veterinary care provided for all of PAWS' animals. Earlier this month it was Alka's turn. Although we have an on-site veterinary clinic, it is sometimes advantageous to provide medical care in the area where an animal lives. Because of Alka's advanced age and health status our veterinarians wanted to make her procedure as quick and as stress free as possible. Most of the veterinary equipment we use in the Pat Derby Animal Wellness Center at ARK 2000 is portable, enabling us to provide quality medical care in a field setting.

Above: Tiger Alka is under general anesthesia as PAWS' veterinary team performs a health exam. Pictured left to right: Dr. Jennifer Curtis, Lynn Dowling R.V.T., Dr. Jackie Gai, and PAWS President and Co-founder Ed Stewart.

On January 24th our doctors (above) made a big cat "house call" to the tiger habitat area of the sanctuary. While Alka slept safely under general anesthesia, PAWS' veterinary staff trimmed her claws, collected blood samples, and administered treatments. She recovered quickly from her exam, and was back to her playful, active self the next morning.

Thank you to everyone who gives to PAWS via our Amazon Wish List. Alka is a perfect example of the many older animals who benefit from the health supplements we have included on that list, and arrive every month thanks to generous friends like you!


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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 January Amazon

"Wish List" Donors

The Alvarez Family: one 8 oz. bottle of EicosaDerm; two Probiocin gels. Lisa Klotz: one gallon Red Cell. Willie Nelson: one 5 lb. tub of Psyllium. Kelly Fitzgerald: one 8 oz. bottle of EicosaDerm and one 32 oz. bottle of EicosaDerm. Azadeh & Craig Morrison: one 5 lb. bag of Missing Link; four Probiocin gels. Jenny Fields: one 8 oz. bottle of EicosaDerm; one 5 lb. tub of Psyllium; four Probiocin gels. Nicole (no last name): one pop-up canopy. Peggy Buckner: one 5 lb. tub of Psyllium. Roxanne Coryell: one bottle of AminAvast, 60#. Shannon (no last name): three Probiocin gels; one gallon of Red Cell. Marilyn Massa: three 32 oz. bottles of EicosaDerm. Kathy Barbour: two Probiocin gels; one 5 lb. tub of Psyllium; one 8 oz. bottle of EicosaDerm. Heather Ramage: one Probiocin gel; one 8 oz. bottle of EicosaDerm; one 5 lb. tub of Psyllium, one package of AA batteries, 100#. Anonymous Donors: two 8 oz. bottles of EicosaDerm; one box of 9x12 envelopes.



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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