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Victory: Zoo Discontinues Elephant Rides

Written by Jennifer O'Connor | December 18, 2011
wwarby | cc by 2.0

Great news: After more than a year of pressure from PETA, the Animal Protection and Rescue League, Animal Defenders International (ADI), and celebrities—including Charo and Switched at Birth star Constance Marie—the Santa Ana Zoo in California has announced that it will discontinue cruel and dangerous elephant rides.

This is a big deal for the elephants, who are dominated and controlled by bullhooks—barbaric training devices that resemble a fireplace poker—as can be seen in video footage from ADI that shows that trainers from Have Trunk Will Travel, the company that provided elephant rides for the zoo, beat and shocked elephants into submission. When not working, the elephants spend much of their time chained by two legs, barely able to take a step forward or backward.

Elephants are highly intelligent, social, and curious animals who deserve better than being forced to plod along in circles all day while being prodded by a bullhook for people’s amusement. Elephants who are subjected to the constant threat of physical punishment—like those who provided rides at the zoo—are also more prone to dangerous and unpredictable behavior and present an unnecessary safety risk to the public.

Please click here to send a thank-you note to Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido and click here to thank Gerardo Mouet, the executive director of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Agency, for making the compassionate decision to end the elephant rides. Be sure to add a P.S. to Mr. Mouet to ask him to make the same decision for the Orange County Fair since Have Trunk Will Travel provides the rides there, too, and Mouet is on the fair’s board.  

Commenting is closed.
  • eddyloomans says:

    when will our governments realize that these types of “popular amusement” are outdated and ban it by law? Also the fact that this type of entertainment still exists says a lot about the intelligence of the average human being who still fund their survival. Can’t they grasp what torture it must be for these magnificent creatures??? Show your kids an animal planet video, take them on a trip and visit animals in their natural environment but please stop supporting this torture……

  • Rev. Meg Schramm says:

    Great news!! I am a former Santa Ana Zoo employee. Many years ago I worked in the gift shop there. They had elephant rides on the weekends way back then also, and on my lunch hour I would watch the elephant plod in an endless circle with zoo patrons on her back. Her trainer was the only creature more bored with that endless circle than she was. The trainer seemed half asleep most of the time. I remember some of the children were terrified at the thought of riding the elephant and would scream and cry, and their parents would shove them on anyway and tell the kids to smile while their photo was being taken. One day while the patrons were being loaded on her back the elephant lifed her right rear foot and attempted to scratch her left rear foot. This action made her shift to the left, everyone on her back shrieked in alarm, and the trainer yelled at her. So she straightened up which caused an abrupt shift to the right, the patrons yelled again, and the trainer yelled at the poor elephant again and got ready to use that bullhook (it was not disquised as anything, it was apparent what it was). The girl in the ticket booth ran over to the trainer and told him not to hit the animal while people were on her back. Things calmed down and the ride went on. The girl selling tickets told me later that she felt that no matter what the elephant did, the trainer was never pleased, so the elephant lived in a state of confusion.