Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Letter to Oregon Zoo regarding Rose-Tu's baby and Have Trunk Will Travel

Posted: 5 December 2012. Updated: 15 February 2016

December 4, 2012

Kim Smith
Ex-officio Director
Oregon Zoo
4001 SW Canyon Road
Portland, OR 97221-9704

Dear Ms. Smith,
We appreciate that you are aware of the widespread public concern that Oregon Zoos breeding agreement with Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT), provides for their ownership of Rose-Tus newborn elephant.

You may not have previously been aware of video filmed by Animal Defenders International (ADI) of elephant training at HTWT in Perris, CA. The footage shows Gary and Kari Johnson and their trainers hitting the elephants with bullhooks and electric shocking them with stun guns. Both owners and trainers continue to work with elephants and since the release of the footage, Gary and Kari Johnson have insisted that they stand by their training methods.

You can see the footage of HTWT elephant handling at this link.

If after seeing this you still feel They [HTWT] care as deeply about animals as we do then this would shock the majority of your zoos visitors.

While we appreciate your assurances that Oregon Zoo plan to keep the new elephant, and the Johnsons have stated that HTWT has no intention and never had any intention of coming to take Rose-Tus calf, we are sure that you understand our deep concern, and that of the public, that while the baby is the subject of a legal agreement awarding ownership to HTWT, there is the risk that the Johnsons could change their minds at a later date, when the public attention has died down, or even in future years if they find themselves in need of a new performing elephant. We urge you to seek a new legal agreement that provides for HTWT to rescind the original agreement and give up all claims to this calf.

This young animal has a lifetime ahead of her, perhaps more than 40 years; this is a long time to have such an agreement in place. HTWT is a commercial provider of performing elephants for circuses, elephant rides, advertising and movies. It is likely that this agreement was originally put in place in readiness for restocking their current performing elephants as they become too old to work. With a very limited supply of animals available for their purposes, a neutral observer would note that the likelihood of them enforcing this contract would increase year on year.

Relying on the good will of this company to uphold the informal or practical implementation of the agreement over such a long period of time appears to be a risky prospect.

ADI, and those concerned members of the public who have contacted us, would very much appreciate clarification of the following:

  • Can you confirm that Rose-Tus calf will never be supplied or loaned to HTWT at any age?
  • What steps (legal or otherwise) has the Oregon Zoo taken to ensure there will be no claims by HTWT under the contract signed by Mike Keele, Deputy Director, 5 January 2005?
  • Can you confirm the current status of this legal agreement?
  • Can you confirm that Oregon Zoo will not supply any elephants (whether acquired or bred) to HTWT in future?

We are grateful for your attention to this matter. I am sure you will understand our concern, in light of the level of violence seen on the footage. We, and members of the public, would be deeply appreciative if you could provide absolute clarity that there is no possibility of this calf, or indeed any other Oregon Zoo elephants, ending up in the hands of this company or its owners.

Please contact me if you wish to discuss this further, or for additional information about the footage of HTWT, at our Los Angeles office: 323-935-2234.

Yours sincerely,

Jan Creamer


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