Monday, February 15, 2016

Resolution Passed!

On February 2, 2016, Marcy Winograd and I presented our Resolution, urging the City of Los Angeles to close the Elephants of Asia Exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo, release Billy, Tina, and Jewel to Sanctuary, and end the captive elephant breeding program, before the Resolution Committee of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. After some discussion, the Resolution Committee unanimously agreed to put the Resolution, now titled Ending Elephant Exhibit at LA Zoo, before the entire committee.

On February 9, 2016, the Resolution was passed by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. The campaign for freedom will now focus on the Los Angeles City Council and the anticipated motion acting on the Resolution. 

Below is the text of the letter written by Dr. Gay Bradshaw, in support of the Resolution:

February 2, 2016

Dear Delegates to the Los Angeles County Democratic Party:

My name is Gay Bradshaw, PhD, PhD, and I am the author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us About Humanity. I am writing this letter in support of the efforts of The Elephant Guardians of Los Angeles to close the Elephants of Asia Exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo, transfer the three elephants to sanctuary, and end captive elephant breeding in Los Angeles.

I hold two doctorates, one in ecology and the other psychology, and have studied elephant trauma and trauma recovery for fifteen years. My research led to the first formal diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in elephants and provided rigorous scientific proof establishing elephant psychological vulnerability to human violence. I am regarded as the foremost authority on the effects of human violence, including capture and captivity, on elephants.

In 2010, amid intense legal, political, and ethical controversy, the Los Angeles Zoo (LA Zoo) opened a new “Elephants of Asia” exhibit. On one side of the enclosure are two female Asian Elephants, Tina and Jewel, both victims of the circus industry in their early fifties, and on loan from the San Diego Zoo. On the other side, separated from Tina and Jewel, is Billy, a solitary, male Asian elephant. Billy was born in 1985 to a free living elephant community in Malaysia, but kidnapped from his family. Later, in 1989, he was acquired by the LA Zoo, where he has lived in virtual isolation for nearly 30 years, spending his hours bobbing and swaying, repetitive motions indicative of psychological breakdown.

Proponents of keeping elephants in zoos argue that captive elephants ensure the survival of the species. Granted, there are real threats in the wild – poaching and culling – but the answer is not to imprison elephants and breed their babies for zoos. The appropriate answer is to protect wild elephants by supporting strict national and international laws and treaties against the sale and importation of ivory; to support sanctuaries where elephants can live in a setting closer to their natural habitat; and to allocate alternative, sustainable resources in areas prone to poaching.

Zoo proponents also insist that captive elephants who are used to amuse and entertain human visitors act as ambassadors for their species, promote love of elephants and educate our children about endangered animals. While some may find Tina’s and Jewel’s “curtsey” performance at the LA Zoo “cute”, the fact is elephants do not curtsey or perform tricks in the wild, neither do elephants in the wild bob and sway in dissociative agony as they do in zoos.

Zoos teach our children all the wrong lessons. Instead of learning respect and care for a species on the brink of extinction, children are taught that captive abuse will save elephants. Zoo elephants cannot be reintroduced to the wild to “save” the species. If the multi-day, highly stressful transport does not kill them, they will suffer, and most likely die in the wild, because their zoo life does not prepare them to live on their own and integrate into wild herds. Baby zoo elephants are fated to live a life of misery in order to generate revenues that service humans, not the species.

The stress and suffering endured by the three LA Zoo elephants can be measured by the difference between their natural habitat in the wild with that of the zoo exhibit. In the wild, elephants typically walk tens to hundreds of miles a day. Elephants in the LA Zoo are limited to a few acres, with unnaturally hard, arthritis-inducing substrates, including cement at the bottom of their pools. Tina, Billy, and Jewel are subject to the constant clicking of hot-wired fences that are not only disturbing, but prevent the elephants from reaching vegetation that they would naturally seek out. This punitive restriction only underscores their helplessness and hopelessness. Moreover, the elephants cannot use the entire three acre exhibit at any one time. Instead, they are moved on a human schedule through heavy metal gates into different enclosures, with Billy always kept alone.

In addition to the profoundly physically harming enclosure, Billy, Tina, and Jewel live a social existence unheard of in wild elephant communities. The LA Zoo has maintained
that male elephants (bulls) isolate themselves in the wild, yet this assertion is in direct contradiction to decades of science that documents the reality of elephant life in the wild. All elephants, including males, are part of a complex, tightly knit extended society that encompasses multiple generations. Given the current scientific understanding that elephant brains and sentience are comparable to our own, conditions at the LA Zoo are appropriately described as those in a prison camp.

The elephants are subjected to yet further violations. The LA Zoo’s so-called “breeding program” is equivalent to rape. Again, given the scientific recognition of elephant sentience, this characterization is accurate and is in no way an exaggeration. In captive breeding programs, personnel massage an elephant’s prostate or invade orifices to prompt ejaculation and sperm production for insemination in a female elephant held captive elsewhere. It is highly significant that Billy refuses to ejaculate even though he is in musth, a heightened state of sexual arousal. This not only points to his full awareness of what is happening to him, but also of his suffering from the indignities sustained. The zoo’s plan is to use Billy’s sperm to breed more captive elephants who will never be released to the wild or live anywhere resembling their natural habitat – and, like commodities, be moved from one zoo to the next, without their mother’s love or their sisters, brothers, and cousins’ companionship.

Zoo and circus elephants sustain injuries and poor health absent under natural conditions. On average they live only half as long as those in the wild. When elephants are born in zoos, they often die young – victims of disease (e.g., herpes virus) or other injuries. The trauma sustained in captivity transmits and cultivates psychopathology. Elephants commit infanticide, kill each other, and self-harm. These are symptoms of c-PTSD (complex PTSD), a formal psychological and psychiatric diagnosis that was developed to describe the devastating effects of torture and captivity.

In summary, the entire captive enterprise is perverse. What people see when they visit the LA Zoo are not normal healthy elephants, but highly traumatized individuals teetering on the edge of total breakdown. The City of Los Angeles has always been a model of progress and ethics, and should join other cities – New York, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, and London – in closing their captive elephant exhibit. Please choose to be a leader in this cause that is compelled by science and plain decency. Support the Elephant Guardians of Los Angeles by advocating to close the Elephants of Asia Exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo, end the captive breeding of elephants, and send Billy, Tina, and Jewel to an appropriate sanctuary where they can live out their lives with some degree of comfort, peace, privacy, and dignity. 

Thank you for your consideration.


G.A. Bradshaw PhD, PhD
Founder and Executive Director

Monday, January 18, 2016

California Appellate Clourt Upholds Leider vs. Lewis

On January 14, 2016, the California Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District, upheld the trial court’s 2012 ruling in Leider v. Lewis. Basically, the appellate judges agreed that the Elephants of Asia Exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo may remain open, however, the injunctions requiring the zoo to exercise the elephants at least 2 hours per day, rototill the soil of the exhibit on a regular basis, and cease all us of bull hooks and electric shock for discipline purposes remain in effect. Justice Rubin stated: “We agree that the exhibit places the elephants in an unnatural environment that is perhaps only an echo of their life in the wild. Setting aside the dangers posed by ivory poachers, we have no doubt the elephants would do better if they were not captive. We also recognize that animal sanctuaries might well provide a better form of captivity, and that a better zoo exhibit might be constructed.”
Most important, since the Appellate Court upheld the lower court’s ruling, the following findings of fact in the lower court’s Statement of Decision are part of the public record and are a severe indictment of the elephant exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo. These facts, and the court’s conclusions based on the evidence presented at trial, include the following:
1.      “All is not well at the Elephants of Asia exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo. Contrary to what the zoo’s representatives may have told the Los Angeles City Council in order to get construction of the $42 million exhibit approved and funded, the elephants are not healthy, happy, and thriving.” (p. 9)
2.      “There is no real dispute that the elephant exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo is not as sufficiently large as an elephant sanctuary or the wild . . .” (p. 10)
3.      The court found that the substrate of the exhibit is hard, not varied and soft, and it creates a risk of injury to the elephants’ joints, feet, and nails. Moreover, the bottom of all the water pools is concrete.  (p. 11)
4.      “The undisputed evidence, high school physics, and common sense, show that a six ton animals repeatedly walking over the same surface will compact the ground.” (p. 14)
5.      “The problem is compounded by the fact that the available surface area for the elephants is much smaller than the total exhibit space because significant portions of the exhibit are closed to the elephants, either for certain periods of time, by gates used to keep Bily [sic] separate from Tina and Jewell [sic], or permanently, by electrically charged or ‘hot’ wires that keep the elephants away from areas of trees, brush, and grass within the exhibit.” (p. 15).
6.      Zoo staff confirmed that electric wires, used to shock the elephants if they come too close, are all over the exhibit, and they are used to protect the trees, plants, and grasses from the elephants. There are no areas of grass in the exhibit that are not electrified, and the ramps leading in and out of the pools are also lined with electric wires. (p. 15). The court stated: “The Los Angeles Zoo elephant management system tempts the elephants with trees that elephants naturally use to rub against and knock down, but frustrates the elephants by keeping those tress in visual and sensory range but beyond access behind electrically charged wires.” (p. 16).
7.      Due to the small space of enclosure, there is a high rate of contamination from urine and fecal matter which can cause foot infections. (p. 16)
8.      “The evidence also shows that the quality of the elephant’s lives in the Los Angeles Zoo elephant exhibit is not good, and that this is having serious repercussions for their physical and emotional well-being.” (p. 17). The elephants exhibit stereotypic behavior (rocking, bobbing, swaying), and this also causes more stress on joints and feet. (p. 17). Testimony of Dr. Joyce Poole, pp. 17-19.
9.      Billy is head-bobbing, swaying, and rocking for about 45% of the time that he is observed (he is not observed in the barn at night). (p. 22)
10.  Foot Care for Elephants, testimony of Dr. Oosterhuis, pp. 24 – 27.
11.  Billy is required to lay down and stand on his hind legs during training demonstrations for the public. (p. 28) Billy was trained by staff at the Los Angeles Zoo to lay down using block and tackle when he was young. Trainers for the Los Angeles Zoo also used a bull hook in the past. (pp. 36-37)
12.  “It is undisputed that Bily [sic] lives and has lived for many years in isolation, separated at all times from other elephants, limited to hearing and smelling Tina and Jewel from afar, occasionally able to rub trunks with them through (presumably non-electrified) fencing.” (pp. 28-29)
13.  The elephants’ choices are extremely limited: keeper’s control the gates and when they will be moved between enclosures, they can go in the water, but only if they walk on cement, and anything Billy chooses to do, he must do alone. (p. 29)
14.  Court’s conclusion: “Thus, the Elephants of Asia exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo is not a happy place for elephants, nor is it for members of the public who go to the zoo and recognize that the elephants are neither thriving, happy, nor content. Captivity is a terrible existence for any intelligent, self-aware species, which the undisputed evidence shows elephants are.  To believe otherwise, as some high-ranking zoo employees appear to believe, is delusional. And the quality of life that Bily [sic], Tina, and Jewel endure in their captivity is particularly poor.” (p. 30)
15.  In addition, the Court stated: “The evidence at trial shows that life at the Los Angeles Zoo for Bily [sic], Tina, and Jewell [sic] is empty, purposeless, boring, and occasionally painful. Their lives are supervised, managed, and controlled by zoo employees who appear to be in the dark about normal and abnormal behavior of elephants, in denial about the physical and emotional difficulties of the elephants they manage and whose lives they control and under the misconception that the elephants prefer to live their lives in an exhibit with human companions rather than with other elephants.” (p. 45-46)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Elephant Guardians of Los Angeles

Through facebook, I have joined forces with an incredible woman, Marcy Winograd. She is also a public school teacher in Los Angeles, cares passionately about animal issues, and has valuable experience with the political process. We have formed a lobbying group: Elephant Guardians of Los Angeles ( Our objective is to close down the Elephants of Asia exhibit, release Billy, Tina, and Jewel to sanctuary, and stop the captive elephant breeding program in Los Angeles through the political process. Our first meeting is Saturday, January 16 at 11:00 am. We have our meeting posted online:

Following is a sample letter to Los Angeles City Council Members:

January 10, 2016

Dear Councilmember ____________, Los Angeles City Council, _________ District:

I hope I can count on you to join us – Elephant Guardians of Los Angeles -- to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, namely the three captive elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo. Please endorse the attached Resolution to End Captive Elephant Breeding Program at the Los Angeles Zoo and Transfer its Captive Elephants to a Sanctuary. This is an issue that will not go away, and Los Angeles has the incredible opportunity to take a leadership role in the Sanctuary Movement that is gaining momentum around the world. 

My name is Kiersten Cluster, and I am a resident, taxpayer, and public special education teacher in the City of Los Angeles. I started a petition on asking the Los Angeles Zoo to close the Elephants of Asia Exhibit and release the elephants to sanctuary. Already over 4,500 people have signed. 

My fellow public school teacher, Marcy Winograd, and I have started a lobbying group, Elephant Guardians of Los Angeles. Our objectives are to close down the elephant exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo, end the captive elephant breeding program, and free the elephants held captive under circumstances contrary to science, ethics, and common human decency. 

The Los Angeles Zoo would like for the public to believe that its redesigned Elephants of Asia Exhibit, opened in 2010, meets the needs of its current inhabitants. However, while the environment may look pretty to human visitors, the scene quickly deteriorates when viewed from the perspective of the captive elephants.

On one side of the enclosure are two female Asian elephants, Tina and Jewel, both former victims of the circus industry in their early fifties.  On the other side, separated from Tina and Jewel, is Billy, a lone, male Asian elephant. Billy was born in 1985 to a wild elephant herd in Malaysia, and was acquired by the Los Angeles Zoo in 1989, where he has since lived in isolation. He occupies one lonely acre of space where he spends most of his time in a corner, swaying and bobbing his head for hours on end, surrounded by metal bars and the constant clicking of electric wires. In light of the current, prolific research on elephants, the Elephants of Asia Exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo does not provide an appropriate environment to meet the most basic needs for space, exercise, socialization, and cognitive stimulation required by its residents.

The lack of living space creates terrible physical and mental stress. As the largest land animal on Earth, elephants require vast, open spaces. It is one of the most important requirements for the physical and psychological well-being of elephants. In the wild, Billy, Tina, and Jewel would cover hundreds, perhaps thousands of acres, and naturally engage in foraging, dusting, mud wallowing, swimming, resting, and socializing with other elephants. Within the constricted zoo exhibit, they live a monotonous and lonely existence without any choices. In fact, they are still forced to perform “tricks” for the crowd at daily “training demonstrations”.

Frankly, as a teacher, I do not believe that children can learn anything useful about wild animals when they are viewed in a captive situation. Although seeing animals in a zoo may delight children, it is basing something that is wonderful on something that is a horror. It teaches children to be indifferent to the suffering of others, that it is “okay” morally to benefit at the cost of someone's terror, loss, and destruction. Children have a natural interest in and affinity for animals. However, they learn from the adult models around them. If the adults in their life display apathetic, uncaring attitudes towards animals, or even outright violence, that is what our children will learn. On the other hand, if we are able to shift our thinking and model respect for all living things, children will follow our example.

Finally, there is no possible gain from a captive elephant breeding program. Forced mating of animals does not help animals in the wild. Instead, it increases zoo profits by luring the public to see baby animals. A better use of our resources would be finding ways to protect wild animals in their home environments where they can live and raise families in a natural, dignified manner. Both male and female elephants are highly infertile in zoos (along with high infant mortality and infanticide, the latter unheard of in the wild), which is not surprising given the terrible stress and devastating conditions they must endure on a daily basis. In fact, despite their efforts to stimulate Billy, the zoo has been unsuccessful in collecting any semen samples from him in order to artificially inseminate a female at another zoo. Even if captive breeding is successful, it produces physically and psychologically unhealthy elephants destined for a life of captivity and exploitation.

There is no justification for the captivity of this highly complex, intelligent, and social species, especially since research shows that elephants experience the same psychological reactions to captivity and isolation as humans.  How long will we stand by and allow Billy, Tina, and Jewel to be exploited for entertainment and profit? They have spent their lives in the service of humans. It is time to say enough. 

If you have any questions, or need further information, please do not hesitate to contact me at: and/or 310-560-1868. Thank you for your consideration and civic leadership. I look forward to hearing from you on this matter. 

Kiersten Cluster

 “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated …” – Mahatma Ghandi

Following is the resolution for the Democratic Party of Los Angeles, written by Marcy Winograd:

Resolution to End Captive Elephant Breeding Program at the Los Angeles Zoo and Transfer its Captive Elephants to a Sanctuary.

WHEREAS, many zoos in the United States and Europe have closed their elephant exhibits, citing lack of space, inadequate social groupings, chronic health problems, anxiety and agitation, and premature death suffered by captive zoo elephants, while acknowledging the Scientific American Board of Editors’ conclusion that keeping elephants – intelligent and emotionally complex animals– confined in zoos is wrong and must stop …

WHEREAS, elephants in the wild typically roam 50 miles each day, even when food is abundant, and depend on vast amounts of space to maintain their physical wellbeing and strong social bonds with extended family networks, but at the Los Angeles Zoo, three elephants – Billy, Tina, and Jewel – are confined to only a few acres while Billy, the male elephant, continues to live over a quarter of a century in virtual isolation …

WHEREAS, captive elephant breeding programs are largely unsuccessful, resulting in a high mortality rate for baby elephants while further disrupting elephant family bonds with the removal of mothers or babies from their herd, and while advancing a false narrative that such programs ensure the survival of elephants in their natural habitat …

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Los Angeles will end its captive elephant breeding program, transfer Billy, Tina, and Jewel, at the earliest possible opportunity, to an appropriate sanctuary with at least 1,000 acres, while closing the LA Zoo’s elephant exhibit forever, and …

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED the Los Angeles Democratic Party shall distribute copies of this resolution to each member of the Los Angeles City Council, the Mayor of Los Angeles, the Director of the Los Angeles Zoo, each member of the Los Angeles Zoo Commission and each supervisor on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Written by Marcy Winograd, member, West LA Democratic Club