Elephant Encounter at Endangered Ark Foundation Leaves Visitor Disfigured; PETA Seeks Action

For Immediate Release:
February 1, 2022

David Perle 202-483-7382

Hugo, Okla. – PETA has obtained court records revealing that a woman was left with life-threatening injuries after being attacked during an encounter with an elephant at the Endangered Ark Foundation in Hugo in March 2021, so this morning, the group fired off a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Director of Animal Welfare Operations Dr. Robert Gibbens, requesting an investigation into why this roadside zoo—connected to Carson & Barnes Circus—has continued to offer dangerous elephant encounters that appear to violate the federal Animal Welfare Act.

In addition to this incident, which left the woman disabled and disfigured, interactions with captive elephants have resulted in dozens of human deaths and catastrophic injuries, including in 2014 when an elephant from Endangered Ark crushed a man to death. Despite this, visitors to the roadside zoo are encouraged to hand-feed, bathe, pet, and pose for selfies with elephants.

“This shoddy roadside zoo puts people at risk every time it promotes public contact events with stressed, abused elephants,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “PETA is calling on authorities to crack down on the facility before someone else gets maimed or killed and is urging people never to visit any operation that’s in the business of exploiting animals, for everyone’s sake.”

Carson & Barnes’ head trainer was filmed viciously attacking an elephant named Becky with a bullhook (a weapon resembling a fireplace poker) until she screamed in pain; Becky is still used for hands-on encounters at Endangered Ark. PETA notes that the Endangered Ark Foundation Preservation Act (HB 3281), an insidious new bill pre-filed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, is designed to exempt these abusive elephant-training practices from the state’s cruelty-to-animals code.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind