ARK 2000 is an elephant sanctuary located on 2000 acres near San Andreas owned and operated by PAWS (Performing Animals Welfare Society). To celebrate our birthdays friend P and I went to see the elephants yesterday.
Entering the facility the first thing you see are these huge fences that surround the 10 acre Siberian Tiger habitats. No, the original plan for ARK 2000 did not include tigers but when an desperate situation developed in southern California, ARK owners Pat and Ed agreed to rescue 36 of the over 100 tigers that needed immediate care.
Each of the tigers has it’s own personality and name. One of the females came over to the fence very deliberately to greet Pat. She says that they do not think of these animals as pets, but as friends.
We were allowed inside the perimeter fence to get camera lenses through the chain link. Still these are long shots. If a tiger turned in the direction of the fence we were asked to step back. Sometimes they don’t come down the hill at all so we were very lucky to even these.
Our group of 20 visitors were asked to park our cars at the Asian elephant barn. The three Asian female elephants are Annie, Gypsy, and Wanda. They have their own dedicated barn and pasture. On a previous visit I got to tour inside that barn. It includes an ‘elephant hot tub’. Big enough for just one elephant at a time, and do they ever love it!
We walked on down the road along the pasture of African females Mara, Maggie, Ruby and Lulu. They were enjoying some forage hay and were reluctant to follow us out to the elephant lake. After much coaxing Mara followed Ed (carrying a birthday gift that looked like a bag of treats) along the fence line.
Maggie came for a few minutes but decided she much preferred the company of her elephant buddies to ours. Mara, on the other hand, was very content to hang out for special attention.
As always, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
Ed had treats in his pocket.
After hanging out at the lake for an hour or so we walked back to the corner where the other girls were gathered.
Elephants show respect by backing into groups of their elders.
The diverse group of visitors came from as far away as Los Angels for the opportunity to spend the day with these wonderful animals.
We are so lucky to have this facility so close to home.
After lunch we caravanned to the area of the sanctuary dedicated to the bull elephants. Again, rescuing bull elephants was not part of Ed and Pat’s original vision, but when the need arose they stepped up to do what was necessary to house not one, but THREE bull elephants.
The three Asian bulls are half brothers. Sabu, below, is new and still in quarantine. He is 11 feet tall and weighs 7 tons. That’s Brian, elephant handler extraordinaire, with Sabu. Maybe you noticed the fencing in the female’s pastures……big posts with 1” cable for the rails? The bull elephants require even bigger posts with that same size used for the rails. The posts go six feet into the ground set in concrete.
Don’t be fooled by what looks like a small enclosure, it’s actually only the alley way that connects Sabu’s pasture to his barn. Yep, each bull elephant has his own private barn.
Looking back at Nic’s barn on the left and Sabu’s on the right I realized that the barns were built on the knoll with the pastures on opposite sides clearly as a every effective means for keeping the bulls separated. This view is from the location of Prince’s barn still under construction. His pasture will be on the far side of his barn.
We got to meet the welder responsible for the outstanding work done on these fences. It’s hard to imagine the scale, but this gate is just over 12 feet tall.
And here’s Nic! Don’t let this mellow attitude fool you. He is treated with total respect, never taken for granted for a minute. Bull elephants are extremely unpredictable. While Ed fed Mara her treats by hand, he tossed bananas to Nic from a safe distance.
Pat and Ed do not believe in captivity for any animal. The only reason these animals are here is that they cannot survive in their natural worlds. All the elephants were handled for years and years by barbaric methods that included bull hooks and chains. Look closely at Brain’s stick….it has a soft ball on the end. This is his tool for directing the elephants in the direction he needs them to go.
Inside Nic’s barn were got to observe a routine health exam/training exercise. Nic voluntarily positions himself in the specially built enclosure to allow blood to be drawn from his ear.
Windows built near the floor allow Nic to safely raise his each individual foot for inspection, cleaning, and a trim if necessary. Nic’s feet are all in good condition. Elephants who have stood on concrete in a restricted area for many years are not so lucky.
Seeing the elephants and watching these dedicated people work with them is truly an amazing experience. If you ever get the chance to visit ARK 2000 I hope you jump at the chance. If not, please consider ‘adopting’ an animal or making a donation.