Monterey Zoo Faces Scrutiny for Elephant Attack

PETA Seeks Action Over Roadside Zoo’s Defiance of State Bullhook Ban, Urges Investigation of Unreported Elephant Attack

For Immediate Release:
March 31, 2020

David Perle 202-483-7382

Salinas, Calif.

This morning, PETA sent a letter urging the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to investigate the Monterey Zoological Society, Inc., and its president, Charlie Sammut, for failing to report an elephant attack that left an employee with serious injuries and for unlawfully using canes to beat and control elephants.

Documents obtained by PETA from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health reveal that, in June 2018, an elephant named Paula “began thrashing,” “stepped on,” and threw a handler who had taken “aggressive action” toward her, while a second worker beat the animal with a cane to try to stop the attack. Although the employee apparently sustained a broken back and ankle along with other injuries, it appears that Sammut never reported the incident to the CDFW, despite being legally required to do so. Within months of the attack, Paula was inexplicably dead—and PETA believes that another elephant who was present during the incident has also died.

PETA documented that handlers at Monterey Zoo used canes to control elephants dozens of times in apparent violation of California’s ban on weapons such as bullhooks (fireplace poker–shaped weapons with a sharp hook on one end that are used to jab, strike, and intimidate elephants), which went into effect in January 2018. It is currently the only facility in California still known to be using prohibited devices on elephants.

“It’s only natural that an elephant held in captivity and pushed to the brink to entertain visitors would protect herself the only way she can—with her tusks, trunk, and feet,” says PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “PETA is calling on authorities to hold this roadside zoo accountable for exploiting elephants, endangering employees and the public, and apparently breaking the law.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment” and which opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview—is requesting that the CDFW revoke Sammut’s restricted-species permit, levy maximum fines, and seize the remaining elephants in his custody for transfer to reputable sanctuaries.

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