Campaigns - Tina, Jewel and Queenie

Tina and Jewel Freed From Abusive Circus Handler But Queenie Moved to Tiny Cell in Antiquated Zoo– She Needs Your Help NOW!

thqTina, Jewel and Queenie (Boo) are three wild-caught Asian elephants who endured a lifetime of ill-treatment at the hands of the circus industry.

For decades the sad lives of these elephants never changed: Day after day, town after town, they were crammed into the back of a trailer, trucked from town to town, and confined to a tiny pen where they swayed neurotically, chained for 12 or more hours per day. They suffered all this for five minutes of performance time each show, forced to do dangerous tricks, under threat from their bullhook-wielding handlers.

Shockingly, the "owners" of these elephants, the notorious Davenport circus family, had been allowed to continue to exhibit them despite egregious and chronic violations of federal law.

Emaciated elephants ordered off the road

In April 2007, the USDA barred travel for Tina and Jewel due to severe weight loss in both elephants; Jewel was particularly emaciated. Six months later, the USDA reauthorized travel. Even though the cause of the elephants' weight loss had not been diagnosed, by November 2007 Tina, Jewel and Queenie were back on the road, under the control of their handler, Will Davenport.

But Davenport continued to fail to comply with basic standards of elephant care and handling. By March 2009, all three elephants were suffering alarming weight loss – over a ton combined in less than a year.

IDA to the rescue

Starting in July 2007, when our investigator located Tina and Jewel in Leggett, Texas, IDA worked to rescue these three long-suffering elephants. With the help of our members, we monitored them as they traveled around the country with various circuses, and filed complaint after complaint with the USDA, urging the agency to take action to remove them from Davenport.

IDA also filed the complaint with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that led to charges against the Davenports for violating the Endangered Species Act by illegally purchasing Tina and Jewel from Cole Brothers Circus without a permit.

On August 20, 2009, our efforts on behalf of two of the elephants paid off.

Tina and Jewel taken to safety

In the heat of the East Texas summer, the USDA, acting in conjunction with the USFWS, sent federal marshals to Leggett to remove Tina and Jewel from the Davenports' custody. After refusing to comply with the USDA's first confiscation attempt, Davenport finally ceded control of the elephants to the federal agents, who sent them to the San Diego Zoo. While IDA would have preferred that the elephants be transferred to a sanctuary, we recognize that the zoo is providing these long-suffering elephants with desperately needed veterinary care. At the San Diego Zoo, Tina and Jewel are being handled in protected contact, free from beatings, domination and the misery of circus life.

The fight for Queenie went on: The USDA claimed to lack a legal basis for confiscating Queenie in August, so she was left behind, chained to a tree on Davenport's property. (Read more about Queenie's background here.)

USDA files elephant abuse charges against Davenport

On September 25, 2009, the USDA filed formal charges against Will Davenport (d/b/a Maximus Tons of Fun) for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act in his abusive and negligent treatment of Tina, Jewel and Queenie. Davenport also faced charges for defying federal officials in their two attempts to remove Jewel and Tina from Davenport's property.

The complaint alleged 19 violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), stating that "the gravity of the violations alleged...is great" and that Davenport has "not shown good faith" in his repeated unwillingness to comply with the act and regulations.

IDA repeatedly encouraged the USDA to bring the full force of the law to bear on Davenport in order to gain custody of Queenie and send her to a sanctuary. In October the PAWS Sanctuary made a formal offer to the USDA to provide a permanent retirement for Queenie at no cost to the federal government.

USDA orchestrates Queenie's transfer to miserable exhibit at San Antonio Zoo

Horribly for Queenie, the USDA proved more responsive to pressure from the zoo community than from the many thousands of concerned citizens who flooded the agency with calls, emails and faxes asking for Queenie to be sent to sanctuary. In April, the USDA ignored objections from IDA, the offer from PAWS and public sentiment, and entered into a deal with Davenport, approving Queenie's sale to the San Antonio Zoo. In exchange the USDA slashed fines against him for his many substantial violations of the AWA, from $100,000 to a mere $15,000 – which the Zoo paid, and then added a $20,000 payment to Davenport, allowing him to profit from years of abuse, negligence and flaunting the law.Queenie - San Antonio Zoo

For an agency empowered with overseeing the welfare of exhibited elephants, the USDA manipulated a result with shockingly little attention to Queenie's welfare. The agency could and should have ensured that she was sent to a sanctuary best suited for her special need for rehabilitative care. Instead, the USDA slashed fines levied against Davenport for multiple violations of the AWA in exchange for Queenie's transfer to an antiquated elephant display at the San Antonio Zoo – a display that was too small for Lucky, the one elephant already living there, much less for two.

The USDA appears to have completely abandoned its role as welfare overseer and acted instead as an acquisition arm for the zoo, at Queenie's expense. In response, IDA sent a letter urging the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, which oversees the USDA, to conduct a full investigation into the agency's actions in brokering Queenie's transfer to San Antonio. The letter detailed the highly unusual conditions of the settlement, financial pressure exerted on Davenport to send Queenie to the zoo, and approval of a facility that does not provide the specialized rehabilitative care Queenie needs.

The thousands of calls, emails and faxes from IDA supporters and other concerned citizens have had an impact in this case, but we need to keep the pressure on to get the USDA to rescind the agreement that put Queenie (the zoo now calls her Boo) in the tiny cell at the San Antonio Zoo, and to get her to the safety of a sanctuary where she can live her final years in peace.

Queenie has endured many decades of intense confinement, abusive training, constant travel and neglect, and she is entitled to a true retirement in a stable environment where she can get the care she needs. The PAWS Sanctuary stands ready to give Queenie a lifetime home, away from the stress of public exhibition.

UPDATE

Tina and Jewel taken to safety

In August 2009, the USDA, acting in conjunction with the USFWS, sent federal marshals to Leggett to remove Tina and Jewel from Davenport's custody. After refusing to comply with the USDA's first confiscation attempt, Davenport finally ceded control of the elephants to the federal agents, who sent them to the San Diego Zoo. While IDA would have preferred that the elephants be transferred to a sanctuary, we recognize that the zoo provided these long-suffering elephants with desperately needed veterinary care. In November, 2010, San Diego sent Tina and Jewel to the Los Angeles Zoo, where they are are being handled in protected contact, free from beatings, domination and the misery of circus life.

Queenie and Lucky at the San Antonio Zoo

Since Queenie (now called "Boo"), joined poor Lucky at the San Antonio Zoo in April, 2010, IDA and local advocates have been monitoring the situation closely.

When alarming videotaped footage of dangerous aggression between Queenie and Lucky was captured last year, IDA filed a complaint with the USDA, demanding that they be removed from this unsafe situation caused by the very small size of their enclosure.

ElephantVoices co-director Dr. Joyce Poole, who has been studying elephant behavior in Africa and Asia for more than 30 years, reviewed the video and provided a statement for IDA's complaint that warned of dire consequences should Lucky and Queenie continue to be held in the zoo’s outdated exhibit. She observed:

"Lucky is being terrorized by Boo [Queenie]. This kind of persistent bullying is not seen in the wild, because elephants have other activities with which to occupy themselves, and because they can remove themselves from conflict, if need be. In my opinion, the primary cause of this undesirable situation is that the elephants have too little space."

Lucky and Queenie are victims of an outdated system that allows zoos to keep two elephants weighing more than four tons each in a space smaller than many backyards. IDA has strongly urged the USDA to take immediate action to avert a tragedy at the San Antonio Zoo, and called for the elephants to be removed and transferred to a natural-habitat sanctuary where they would have room to move and could choose their companions.

IDA will continue to work with local advocates to monitor both elephants’ well-being, and to take all possible actions on behalf of Queenie and Lucky.