Santa Ana Zoo Urged to Cut Ties with Elephant Ride Contractor in Wake of Abuse Alleged in Video

Categories: Film, Main

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An animal rights group is urging the city of Santa Ana to break ties with the supplier of elephants for a Santa Ana Zoo ride after allegations the same company abused a mammal that appears in the recent film Water for Elephants starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) made the demand after video posted online by Animal Defenders International (ADI) was said to show Tai, a 42-year-old Asian elephant, being shocked with a taser and beaten with bull hooks in 2005.




My colleague Dennis Romero posted the following video earlier today on LA Weekly's The Informer news blog:


Movie star electric shocked from Animal Defenders on Vimeo.

In the story, Tai is abused with bull hooks by an evil circus owner. But the stars, producers and trainers on Water for Elephants claimed in real life "Tai was trained with kindness, marshmallows, and positive reinforcement," an ADI statement notes.

"Tai was never hit in any way at all," Gary Johnson of Have Trunk Will Travel, the Perris company that provided Tai to the moviemakers and has other elephants in use at Santa Ana Zoo, is also quoted as saying in the film production notes.

Jan Creamer of ADI says his group felt duty-bound to show what Tai has really gone through, believing Witherspoon and Pattinson "will be horrified to learn" of the past abuse.

Romero's post includes this from PETA:

PETA, Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL) and Orange County People for Animals (OCPA) has sent an urgent letter to Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido and other Santa Ana officials calling on them to end the rides once and for all.

Tracy Reiman, PETA's executive vice president, is also quoted:

Video footage reveals that Have Trunk Will Travel beats elephants with what is essentially a fireplace poker, clearly showing that 'training' to the company means beating and shocking these gentle elephants until they scream. Mayor Pulido needs to stop supporting such wanton abuse and stop the pathetic old-fashioned elephant rides at the zoo.

Contacted by OC Weekly in October, Santa Ana Zoo Manager Kent Yamaguchi defended the city-owned attraction's elephant rides, singling out the care for elephants practiced by contractor Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT).


"I have worked with the elephant company for over 20 years and have seen first-hand how they care for their elephants," Yamaguchi wrote in an email to our Milena Enguidanos, going on to claim HTWT did not use bull hooks to intimidate their animals like other elephant handlers had.

"They treat their elephants like they are part of their family," Yamaguchi wrote. "Some of my staff have even worked with the elephants and lived with them while they were on the road and no one has ever reported any staff abuse toward the elephants. That is why I believe that HTWT does not do the things purported by PETA."

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Misha_one
Misha_one

Animal protectionists have released videos showing elephant abuse for years and no one wants to listen. Elephants performing circus acts is not natural and I'm glad that people are learning the extent of abuse animals are subjected to everyday. For months OCPA has been in front of the Santa Ana zoo to let people know about the abuse showing videos to the public, passing out flyers and people still say that these are "isolated" incidents. When will people wake up and realize that abuse is rampant and happens every day.

Sandra H
Sandra H

Misha, I have never supported the circus for this very reason.

James
James

You have to wonder why animal extremists would sit on this video for years, and then release it to attack the movie and the elephant company. Is the elephant in the video really the same one as in the Water for Elephants movie because it sure doesn't look like it.

Sandra H
Sandra H

how do you know it was the first release?

Jill Lloyd
Jill Lloyd

I have personally worked with the Johnsons of Have Trunk Will Travel at fairs and events for more than 20 some years, and I can attest to the love and devotion they have for these elephants. I've been to their ranch several times, including visits with the press. There is no way these elephants would respond how they do if they were mistreated. Anything that depicts mistreatment of their elephants is questionable propaganda. Anyone who knows the Johnsons and the incredible work they do knows the truth: there is no abuse, only love and trust.

kimberley orvis
kimberley orvis

I'm sorry, but Jill did you have your eyes open when you watched that video? There is clear mistreating going on here. It makes me almost physically sick when i see this happen to animals. One day they will turn on the people that inflict pain on to them. And it will be well deserved. It is called karma; what goes around, comes around.

Jill Lloyd
Jill Lloyd

I do not know this video's authenticity rather my opinion is based on my personal experience and observation. It is too easy to add sound effects and alter footage. I do not condone animal abuse in any shape or form. But to base one's opinion on a poor quality video that can help distort the truth is not solid evidence.

kimberley orvis
kimberley orvis

maybe you should watch it again? it is not the best quality but at the end of the day you are standing up for a company that now mis-treats Elephants. this video is not made up, you can see the Elephant in pain.  

Misha_one
Misha_one

Leave the animals alone. They are not for enertainment or for profit - they are not slaves.

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