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Sunday, September 13, 2015

From the News: Fire Evacuation

As fires rage across northern California, many members of the zoo and aquarium profession think with concern towards their colleagues there, in the path of the natural disaster.  Not all captive wildlife is in zoos, however - some is in private hands, some in sanctuaries.  Included in the later is PAWS, the Preforming Animal Welfare Sanctuary, home to some former zoo animals, including the Toronto Zoo elephants, among others.  The elephants, of course, are the "too big to move" residents that the article above refers to in its title.

(Photo: ABC10)

And that's bull... and not the elephant kind.  No animal is too big to move, provided you are willing to work with it and train it.  That's where PAWS differs from zoos, circuses, and other facilities, however.  They don't work with their animals.  Some zoos work protected contact with their elephants, some work free contact.  PAWS does not engage in training with their animals, which seems nice at first glance - "Oh, they're allowed to be natural and happy and free and blah, blah, blah" - until there is a giant-ass fire at your front doorstep, and you can't move your animals to safety.

Rumor is that several zoos, circuses, and trainers have offered to come in and help them move the elephants, which PAWS has refused, since it would be bad for their image to be rescued by those evil-ol'-zookeepers. Instead, they are putting their faith in sprinklers (with 300 gallons of water...), a firebreak, and luck.

Well, I believe you make your own luck, or lack of it, at least as much as you can.  And I hope that the fires miss this place, if only because it's not the elephants who deserve to pay for someone's lack of foresight.

UPDATE (9/14/2015) - The fire seems to have changed direction, and the sanctuary seems to be safe.  PAWS was lucky, but is never good to place too much hope and trust in luck.  I hope that they will consider finding more practical fire safety procedures than "sit-and-pray" for the next time... because let's be honest.  It's California.  The next fire is just a matter of time.

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