Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"He's really just a bag of bones"

(See update on Ned at end of post)

Article reprinted here from the St. Petersburg Times
November 11, 2008
By Rebecca Catalanello

He weighs a ton less than he should weigh.

His cheeks are gaunt. His shoulder blades, sternum, hips and spine protrude from his leathery 9-foot-6 frame.

But 21-year-old Ned, a captive-born Asian elephant from Tampa, wobbled slowly out of a trailer Sunday into a new phase of his life.

No more circuses. No more trainers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Saturday whisked him away from Balm owner Lance Ramos, convinced the trainer had violated the federal Animal Welfare Act as Ned's owner.
More than 700 miles away at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, founder and director Carol Buckley made plans to nurse 7,500-pound Ned back to health.

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the healthiest, Buckley said, Ned's body mass is a 2.
"He's really just a bag of bones," she said.

Attempts to reach Ramos for comment were unsuccessful.
This is not the first time Ramos, also known as Lancelot Kollman, has had run-ins with the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
In 2000, the federal agency charged him with violating the Animal Welfare Act after an 18-year-old female elephant broke free from a chain and killed Ramos' sister, Teresa Ramos-Caballero. The elephant died soon after of unknown reasons.

Over the course of Ramos' career, which included training animals for the Oscarian Brothers Circus, he was also cited by the USDA for failing to provide veterinary care to injured animals, causing trauma and harm to a jaguar and tolerating unsanitary conditions.

USDA spokeswoman Jessica Milteer said Ramos is appealing a court ruling in a case brought by the USDA concerning his treatment of two bigs cats. RaeLeann Smith, a circus and government affairs specialist for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, lauded the USDA for confiscating Ned. But she also wrote a letter urging the agency to pursue criminal charges. Ramos has been fined thousands of dollars before. But, Smith said, he continues to offend. "We've long been concerned with his abysmal care of animals," Smith said. Milteer said the agency is only authorized to impose civil penalties. But Smith pointed to a section of federal law that appears to allow criminal penalties of up to a year in prison, or a fine of not more than $2,500, or both. "These animal abusers get a slap on the wrist and they're allowed to continue," Smith said. "They shouldn't stop there."
Back at the elephant refuge in Tennessee, Buckley said Ned seems to be making slow progress.
He is easily frightened and seems nervous to wander more than 200 feet from the barn, she said. At first, he seemed unfamiliar with fruits and vegetables. By Monday, he was eating pumpkins, broccoli, corn — "everything imaginable," she said. A healthy elephant diet includes grass, grain, and vegetation, sanctuary spokeswoman Kate Elliot said. Buckley said she suspects Ned had little more than hay for his diet — the least nutritious food commonly available to elephants.

Born Oct. 10, 1987, at Busch Gardens, Ned was the offspring of two elephants captured in Southeast Asia. At age 2, he was sold to a circus trainer and performed in the Big Apple Circus. When elephants were cut from the circus lineup, Ned wound up in Ramos' care. He recently performed in the Royal Hanneford traveling circus, Elliot said.

But Buckley said all of that is behind Ned now. If things go as planned, he will grow stronger and eventually be placed in a permanent home. "He has the potential," Buckley said, "to live to be 70."


Welcome to the Sanctuary Ned! I've read in the diary of your life these past few days at the Sanctuary that they have yet to hear a sound from you. Poor thing. Elephants normally make all kinds of grunts, rumbles and squeaks. I and hundreds of others are sending positive and healing thoughts your way. You have paid a high price for your freedom.
UPDATE: November 14
From the Elephant Sanctuary's Ned Diary
Ned had a great day. He ambled in and out of his barn all day, carrying groceries with him. Tonight he greeted his caregiver with a series of rumbles. Each time produce and grain were put in front of him, he rumbled; when the browse and bamboo were placed in his stall, he rumbled; when three varieties of hay where tossed his way, he rumbled; and when a watermelon rolled across the floor, stopping just inches from his trunk, he froze, glanced up and let out a gloriously long rumble. He is definitely coming around!

Ned went exploring first thing this morning, up the hill and into the woods—he is a very curious guy. After a short time, he came back down the hill to the hay and produce spread around his yard. He found a watermelon, stepped on in and began eating. Eleanor, one of the Sanctuary rescued dogs, had spied Ned's produce and wanted to help herself to a piece of potato. Ned stood calmly munching away on the watermelon while keeping one eye on the approaching dog. When Eleanor got closer than Ned felt appropriate, he spun and ran at her. What a sight; lanky-legged Ned racing at stubby-legged Eleanor the Bassett hound, running as quickly as her short little legs could. Eleanor dashed out of the yard, stopping just outside the corral. Ned ambled back to his groceries as Eleanor tried another approach. When Eleanor walked under the corral a second time, Ned raised his head and barked a vocalization at her. it was awesome; he was not intimidated by the dog, he was simply setting boundaries. Eleanor froze at the sound, retreated outside of the corral again and plopped down on her belly looking for another approach to the prize potatoes.

Ned seemed to think this was a good game. He watched Eleanor and each time she tried to enter his yard, he would yell at her or run towards her. Her retreats seems less fearful and more frustrated that she could not fool this elephant. The two may prove to be good friends, we will just have to wait and see.

Wow, doesn't he look like he could just walk right through those bars?!

This photo just makes my heart hurt.


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Sad, sad, sad. I'm glad Ned has someone watching over him now.

Dog_geek said...

Oh, poor Ned! I'm glad that he's been rescued, but his former owner should definitely face a lot more than just a fine and not be allowed to have any more animals, ever. I don't understand why society is so reluctant to punish criminals who victimize animals.

I just read the National Geographic article on elephant family groups, and it just about broke my heart what we do to these intelligent, sensitive animals.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness Ned has a new home. I agree with Dog Geek--these abusers should get locked up. I wish all the best for Ned. Cat 59

possumlady said...

Oh, I totally agree about locking up animal abusers. What also really bothers me is the long time USDA takes to take any action. Why do they need to wait until the poor animal is close to death to convince themselves that abuse has taken place?

Hey Cat59, I asked Ms. Melanie if she saw you at conference and she said she never did. Were you hiding in all your NC duties?

I have a GREAT verification word:
squisit! A new word for when somethin is real, real special....it's squisit!

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Me, too!
His face looks so knowing.
How can it go this far?

seriously amused said...

Poor thing!!!

If he was human, something would have been done sooner.


KGMom said...

Oh oh oh -- why why are humans so horrible? And so caring--two ends of the spectrum. The person (or people) who mistreated Ned until he ended up looking the way he does in that photo--and the wonderful people at the Elephant Sanctuary who will give him a good life. May it be a long and loving life from here on out for Ned.

Margaret Cloud said...

What a sad story, I am glad he was rescued.I hope he continues to eat. that picture makes me so sad, he looks so thin, good luck to you Ned. I hope one day that Lance Ramos gets his.

Anonymous said...

Well hi Possumlady. You are squisit! How is Ned doing? I was busy running from one affiliate meeting to the next. I never even got to see the exhibit hall and never visited the NAEYC sales area. BTW, your boss did recognize your work at one of the sessions.

ChicagoGrrrl said...

USDA doesnt want animal welfare. animals are a product. they are for making money. it does not matter to the agribusiness persons in the USDA -- Bush appointees -- what happens to an animal. what matters is that the ownership is not contested and that the owner can exploit however they see fit to make a profit. It is that way at the federal level and it is that way at the state level. here in illinois they have humane care for animals laws but they do not get enforced and they do not apply to animals in agriculture. elephants are nothing more than commodities to business. laws protect business. That is why animal advocacy is so important and why, as we near 2009, people that care about all living creatures continue to press for humane animal laws with real consequences for people who abuse them.