“ The Caravan to Freedom”
Hohenwald, Tennessee (January 26,2006) – Scheduled to start this Sunday, or at the latest Monday, the first of 8 elephants whose relocation was mandated by the USDA, will begin the 12-hour journey from the Hawthorn Corporation in Richmond, Illinois to The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. The entire group will be moved, two at a time, during the course of the next two weeks. The move was prompted as a response to the Hawthorn Corporation’s numerous citations for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, such as soaking elephants’ feet in full-strength formaldehyde to regularly forcing elephants to stand in excessive temperatures without shade or water for days at a time. Therefore, the move to The Elephant Sanctuary, which is the nation’s largest natural habitat refuge for African and Asian elephants, could not have come too soon. Dubbed the “Caravan to Freedom” these ex-circus elephants will travel in a custom built, chain-free trailer donated and specially refurbished by UPS. The elephants travel in pairs according to which have formed the closest friendships. As an acknowledged “favorite” amongst the elephant set, Sanctuary co-founder Scott Blais will make each of the four 650 mile trips with the herd in order to assure that they remain calm and safe during their journey. The Sanctuary’s Elephant Health and Welfare Institute was created as result of the rescue of this herd of elephants which have been exposed to the human strain of tuberculosis while at the Hawthorn facilities. The Institute will collect data and conduct non-invasive research to develop diagnostics and treatment for captivity induced ailments, specifically osteomyelitis and the human strain of tuberculosis. In fact, the Institute recently became involved in research for a new method of detecting TB, which could eventually allow screeners to use one test to diagnose the sickness across various species- including human. As Carol Buckley of The Elephant Sanctuary states, “Saving these elephants has an added benefit, the information they provide about their disease may one day help save us.” Although The Elephant Sanctuary made an offer to take in all of Hawthorn’s female elephants in May of 2005, the actualization of the rescue has been a difficult and lengthy process due to the fact that the entire herd had been exposed to the human strain of tuberculosis. Two elephants tested positive for the disease and one, sixty-year-old Tess, died in chains at the Hawthorn facility late last year. Seeing the urgency of the situation, the Sanctuary’s founders, Carol Buckley and Scott Blais, raised an initial $3 million to build a new state-of-the-art barn to make room for the TB-exposed herd in order to speed the rescue along. This was done, even before an agreement had been reached. The final barrier to the rescue of these elephants fell on November 1, when the Hawthorn Corporation contacted The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee with an offer to donate nine of their remaining female elephants. Sadly, Sue, one of the elephants to be rescued, died before she could be moved to the Sanctuary. Operating on 2,700 acres in Hohenwald, Tennessee, The Elephant Sanctuary has been developed specifically to meet the needs of endangered African and Asian elephants. The nonprofit organization, licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, is designed specifically for old, sick or needy elephants that have been retired from zoos and circuses.
A true sanctuary, The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is not intended to provide entertainment; resident elephants are not required to perform for or entertain the public. Instead, they are encouraged to live like elephants. As stated by Phil Snyder, regional director of the Humane Society of the United States, “The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee represents the future of enlightened captive elephant management.” While the Sanctuary has raised a portion of the funds needed for the transfer, the organization estimates that it will need an additional $65,000 to complete the transfer. This amount does not include the antibiotics that each infected elephant will require for her yearlong course of treatment for tuberculosis, estimated to cost $200,000, nor the standard expenses of regular medical care; hundreds of pounds of fruits, vegetables and grain daily; eight semi trailer loads of hay annually; and trained caregivers. The annual cost to care for these eight elephants is estimated to be $2 million. To find out more about The Elephant Sanctuary in its continued care of these elephants, and what you can do to help, please visit http://www.elephants.com/lota/rescueLota.php . To see charges filed against the Hawthorn Corporation, please visit http://www.elephants.com/hawthorn/charges.htm To find out more about The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee visit http://www.elephants.com/ .
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