CA sanctuary says killer elephant still welcome

Apr 26, 2012, 11:22 PM

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) – An African elephant is still welcome at a California sanctuary after killing a zookeeper who was preparing to move the animal from New Zealand, the sanctuary owner said Thursday.

Pat Derby’s Performing Animal Welfare Society in San Andreas was going to be home to the 39-year-old elephant now called Mila after being known as Jumbo during nearly 30 years with the circus.

However, its fate is uncertain after Helen Schofield, a veterinarian and owner of Franklin Zoo near Auckland, was crushed to death Wednesday.

“We will have to negotiate with whoever becomes her new owner,” Derby said.

For the past four years, Mila has been at the zoo while Schofield worked to place her elsewhere. Derby said she and Schofield had been working on the move for about two years.

Schofield was training Mila to live in a crate during the trip. She exchanged emails with Derby a month ago saying the training was going well and she was feeling good about the move.

“We didn’t actually have a date,” Derby said. “It was sort of whenever crate training was finished and they felt she was comfortable enough to make the trip.”

Hans Kriek, executive director of Save Animals from Exploitation, said he talked to Schofield the day before she died and she told him she believed Mila was ready to ship.

Bob Kerridge, president of the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, called Schofield’s death devastating.

“Dr. Schofield’s commitment to the care and well-being of Mila was clearly evident in her work with her and was indeed inspirational,” Derby said.

Kerridge said Schofield ran her zoo on a shoestring budget with a handful of staff members. As a result, her death left its future in doubt.

Mila was being cared for by the Auckland Zoo after the death of Schofield.

Derby said she didn’t know any details about the accident and no one from New Zealand had called.

“All elephants, particularly Africans, suffer from PTSD,” Derby said. “They’re captured from the wild. The capture usually involves killing their whole family unit, which is a terrible drama. They all suffer horrendous physical and psychological problems. You just never know when it will express itself.”

In addition, Derby said she is sure the stress of circus life contributed to the trauma of adjusting for Mila.

In San Andreas, near Sacramento in Northern California, where Mila was headed, three African elephants are kept separate from other elephants, Derby said.

“We always keep safe distances and safety barriers between the elephants and the people so there’s no opportunity for accidents to happen,” she said.

Elephants are social creatures and there was concern Mila had been lonely. “She’s been alone most of her life in that circus. I’m sure she was adjusted to it,” Derby said.

African elephants, the world’s largest land creatures, live to be 60 or 70 years old in the wild, but in captivity, 50 is quite old, Derby said.

If Mila does end up coming to California, she will have large grassy areas for roaming, access to a 20,000 square-foot barn with heated floors, and an elephant Jacuzzi, Derby said.

“It’s not the wild, but it’s very nice for elephants in captivity,” she said.

Transporting an elephant halfway around the world is extremely tricky, Derby said.

Flying is the fastest way but also the most expensive and “I don’t know what the funding issue is there,” Derby said.

If a ship and truck are used, it’s a “long, long journey,” she said.

Once an elephant leaves on such a trip, it is stuck in the crate until it arrives, she said.

Mila was the only elephant at the Franklin Zoo, which built a new enclosure for her in 2010.


Associated Press Writer Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand, contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)...
Associated Press

Ex-Twitter execs to testify on block of Hunter Biden story

Former Twitter employees are expected to testify next week before the House Oversight Committee about the social media platform's handling of reporting on President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden.
24 hours ago
FILE - The seal of the Board of Governors of the United States Federal Reserve System is displayed ...
Associated Press

Federal Reserve set to impose smaller hike could hint of fewer increases

The Federal Reserve is poised this week to raise its benchmark interest rate for an eighth time since March.
24 hours ago
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)...
Associated Press

President Biden announces COVID-19 emergencies to end May 11

President Joe Biden informed Congress on Monday that he will end the twin national emergencies for addressing COVID-19 on May 11.
24 hours ago
(AP File Photo/Geneva Heffernan)...
Associated Press

Valley woman among 3 killed in shooting at Los Angeles rental home

Three women, including one from Buckeye, were killed in a weekend shooting at a short-term rental home in an upscale Los Angeles neighborhood.
24 hours ago
(Arizona Department of Transportation photo)...
Associated Press

Should federal grants be in favor of highway repair over expansion?

Advocates for highway construction are concerned their projects are getting shortchanged in the competition for grant money under the new infrastructure law.
2 days ago
Demonstrators block traffic protesting the death of Tyre Nichols on January 27, 2023 in Memphis, Te...
Associated Press

Memphis police chief disbands unit responsible in beating of Tyre Nichols

The unit is composed of three teams of about 30 officers and had been inactive since Tyre Nichols' Jan. 7 arrest.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
CA sanctuary says killer elephant still welcome