Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

New Texas setup for California company caught abusing its elephants

Posted: 18 December 2018. Updated: 18 December 2018

Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT), whose elephant abuse was exposed by Animal Defenders International (ADI), has left California to set up ‘The Preserve’ in Texas. Despite the change in name and location, ADI warns that it is business as usual, with HTWT’s long-suffering elephants still forced to perform.

ADI President Jan Creamer said: “Have Trunk Will Travel may have a new location and name, but for the animals the suffering is just the same. Snatched from the wild, elephants Tai, Dixie, Kitty, Rosie, and Becky have endured a lifetime of abuse. Don’t buy into the cruelty – avoid ‘The Preserve’ and join the call for their elephants to be given the sanctuary they need.”

Shocking footage from an 8-week undercover investigation by ADI, released when the movie Water for Elephants featuring elephant Tai came out, shows elephants at HTWT’s former location in California being beaten with bull hooks and electric shocked with stun guns by the owners and trainers. Forced to perform the tricks seen in the movie and others, TV shows including Westworld, commercials, and events, HTWT’s elephants were chained by their legs 12 hours a day, barely able to take one step back and forward. The producers and stars of Water for Elephants, as well as HTWT, asserted that Tai was trained with kindness, marshmallows, and positive reinforcement; as the ADI footage shows this could not be further from the truth.

Video of ADI’s findings can be seen here.

The investigation resulted in universal condemnation of HTWT and its practices from veterinary surgeons, elephant experts, zoo industry insiders, and the public. After reviewing the evidence, event organizers and venues, including the Orange County Fair and Santa Ana Zoo, ended their business relationships with HTWT.

Footage from the investigation features in ADI’s No Fun For Elephants video, narrated by Bob Barker and used for ADI’s nationwide campaign of the same name to oppose the use of elephants for rides, performances, and appearances at public events. The violent training and handling methods of Texas-based elephant provider Trunks and Humps also feature in the video, which can be viewed here:

HTWT owners Kari and Gary Johnson established ‘The Preserve’ in Fredericksburg, about 80 miles west of Austin, Texas, this year, the move from California coinciding with the introduction of a statewide bull hook ban. Previously, after the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) introduced new guidelines preventing the use of bull hooks, HTWT announced it was no longer certified by the Association. The AZA Protected Contact guidelines ensure the safety of staff and welfare of elephants, while the Free Contact system used by HTWT allows staff to share the same space as elephants while using the bull hook as a means of control and domination.

Through ‘The Preserve’, HTWT are offering interactions with its five long-suffering elephants, Tai, Dixie, Kitty, Rosie and Becky, who were all captured from the wild during the 1960s and 1980s. Billed as “intimate, meaningful experiences,” interactions with the animals include bathing them and filing their nails, taking selfies, and watching as the elephants are made to paint pictures on canvas. Through a separate website, HTWT also hires out its elephants for rides at weddings.

Research shows that presenting wild animals as objects of fun, and within a human environment, can negatively distort people’s perception of their conservation status, undermining efforts to protect them. The Asian elephant is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, with wild populations continuing to decline.

Media Contacts:

US: Lesley McCave, ADI Communications Director | (323) 935-2234 or (323) 804-9920 |

UK: Devon Prosser, Press Officer | 020 7630 3344 or 07785 552548 |

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