are LOTA and the Hawthorn Elephants?
Lota is one of 16 elephants currently held by the Hawthorn Corporation
of Illinois. The owner, John Cuneo, has made a business out
of using these elephants for entertainment purposes. For more
than 35 years he has rented elephants out to circuses. All of
the elephants are veteran performers who have spent most of
their lives traveling and performing in circuses.
Why have animal welfare activists been so concerned over
the treatment of the Hawthorn Elephants?
John Cuneo has been repeatedly cited for animal care violations,
particularly in his unwillingness to provide proper veterinary
care for his animals. Numerous instances of obvious neglect,
causing his elephants pain and suffering, were documented
by the USDA.
What finally prompted the USDA to close down the Hawthorn
Public pressure, repeated demands from animal welfare groups,
and the long list of animal care violations were instrumental
in getting the USDA to take this important action.
Did the USDA confiscate the elephants?
Actually, no; the Hawthorn elephants remain under the care of
John Cuneo and his employees at their barn in Northern Illinois.
The only elephant that the USDA has ever confiscated is Delhi,
another one of John Cuneos elephants. In an unprecedented
action, the USDA confiscated 58 year old Delhi a year and a
half after her feet were soaked in full strength formaldehyde
by a Hawthorn employee. She was sent to The Elephant Sanctuary
in November of 2003, where she is currently recovering and doing
If the elephants were not confiscated what happened?
To settle the lawsuit filed against him by the USDA, John Cuneo
voluntarily relinquished all 16 of his elephants. In his March
2004 consent decree, John Cuneo agreed to place his elephants
in other facilities by August 15.
What will happen to these elephants now that theyve
That is the next big hurdle that must be overcome. Barn space
in the nations elephant sanctuaries is at a premium. Placing
16 elephants is no small feat. Currently, there is not enough
barn space in sanctuaries to take all of the elephants.
Several circuses have asked for the elephants, and breeding
facilities have opened their doors as well an alarming
development. After having just advanced the cause of animal
welfare, and especially elephant welfare, what a tragedy
it would be to see these magnificent creatures again placed
in distressing situations.
What would be the benefit of keeping the Hawthorn elephants
together instead of splitting them up and sending them to
Some of the Hawthorn elephants have lived together for decades.
Separating them could amount to inflicting extreme emotional
trauma. Additionally, this herd represents a wealth of information
regarding the life threatening diseases that plague captive
elephants. They are known as the TB Herd because
tuberculosis has been documented in the herd for nearly a
decade. Kept together, much could be learned through non invasive
research which would benefit these elephants, and potentially
many captive elephants around the world.
What plan do you have in place to carry out non invasive research?
Upon our request, Dr. Susan Mikota DVM has drawn up a comprehensive
plan to continue her ground-breaking work on tuberculosis
in captive elephants. Dr. Mikotas extensive background
in elephant TB makes her a prime candidate to spearhead the
development of diagnostics and treatments for TB and other
diseases that plague captive elephants. The Elephant Sanctuary
will establish a world class Elephant Health and Welfare Institute
to further the research of TB and other diseases, which have
had such a profound negative impact on the longevity and welfare
of captive elephants.
What arrangements are
being made for the Hawthorn elephants to come to the Sanctuary?
The Sanctuary has already received three of the Hawthorn
16; Delhi, Lota and Misty. We have raised the funds to build
a new barn to enable us to accept all of the female Hawthorn
elephants. Construction of the new barn is scheduled to be
completed September 2005.
Can the Elephant
Sanctuary accept all 16 of the Hawthorn elephants?
The Sanctuary has offered to accept all of the female elephants
which at this time numbers 11 elephants; 10 Asians and one
Can the Hawthorn elephants be put in the barn with the Sanctuary
Elephants with TB must to be kept separate from other elephants
to avoid spreading the disease to others.
Can the Hawthorn elephants that dont have TB be put
in the barn with the Sanctuary herd?
After proper quarantine and disease testing it would be
acceptable to put a non-TB positive elephant in with other
elephants. After Delhi joins our Asian herd in July, we
will have space in our main elephant barn for one additional
Asian elephant. We need more barn space for the Hawthorn
Is there a certain date that the funds must be raised by?
The USDA has advised that the elephants must be removed from
the Hawthorn Corporation property by August 15th. On August
13, the Hawthorn Corporation filed 2 motions to stop the
removal of their elephants. The case is back to court.
Is a new barn under construction right now?
The barn is under construction and on schedule to be completed
Where have the donations come from?
The donations have come from Elephant Sanctuary members,
Foundations and animal welfare organizations. To date, the
Park Foundation gave $50,000, PETA has pledged $50,000,
and the Chrysalis Foundation has pledged $250,000, just
to name a few. Many other foundations and individuals have
contributed to the effort to rescue the Hawthorn 16.
This sounds like a critical juncture for the animal welfare
No one ever said that rescuing elephants was easy; perhaps
this is why the USDA has never done it before. However,
the USDA has greatly advanced the cause of animal welfare
by now providing protection under the law for the Hawthorn
ensure that the movement does not lose momentum,
the funds must be raised to place these elephants in sanctuaries
equipped to care for them. We all recognize that if the necessary
funding is not found, we run the risk that the USDA will not be
able to confiscate needy elephants in the future.
What can I do to help?
- make a donation
- tell others and ask them to donate
- start a fundraising campaign of your own
- call the animal welfare organizations you belong to and request they contribute to the cause
- inform any group that has campaigned for the release of circus elephants that funds are needed for Lota and her family
- make your local media aware that you support the rescue of the Hawthorn elephants.
Can I really make a difference?
Most definitely. We have had great successes in rescuing elephants through the efforts of individuals who cared enough to take action. We are hoping that we can repeat these victories with the Hawthorn elephants they so richly deserve it.
We are very grateful for your concern and aid in this cause. Thank you for being part of the solution.
Chester Gipson, D.V.M.
Associate Deputy Administrator
4700 River Road, Unit 84
Riverdale, MD 20737-1234