Sarah Blaine

Mahouts Elephant Foundation


Sarah Blaine, along with her family, Felix, Joe and Natasha, founded Mahouts Elephant to address the growing needs of elephants and mahouts in the tourism industry in Thailand and throughout Asia.

Registered as a non-profit in the UK, MEF is dedicated to improving and protecting the lives of Asian elephants. Its mission is shifting attitudes within the tourism industry to facilitate the return of captive, working elephants to protected forest habitat. The elephant tourism industry forces mahouts and their families into desperate poverty - traps few can escape. As a mahout’s family becomes increasingly impoverished, the health of the elephant is compromised.

MEF works on the ground to develop sustainable, welfare-focused tourist experiences in order to support the needs and livelihoods of the mahouts (traditional elephant keepers), their families and the local communities in coexistence with the needs of the elephants.

Mahouts Elephant Foundation was founded in the memory of Samsri, a street begging elephant the Blaines encountered on the streets of Hua Hin, Thailand in 2008. Samsri, then in her 70s, was suffering the effects of her long, harsh life, but, thanks to the work of the Blaines and the Boon Lotts Elephant Sanctuary in Northern Thailand, was able to spend her final days in the loving arms of sanctuary.

MEF’s pilot project provides alternative sources of income for mahouts trapped within the elephant camp tourism industry. A key aim of this project is to protect elephants and restore them to conserved habitat.

MEF has facilitated the return of 3 previously captive elephants to an 8,000 acre forest protected by the Huay Pakkoot community. MEF fostered a relationship with mahouts from the village working in the tourist industry at various trekking camps. Through this relationship, MEF developed a plan that would enable the mahouts to return to their home village while their elephants return to the protected forest around the village.

MEF has facilitated the natural birth of Sunti, born in the forest to a previously captive mother. Sunti represents the first generation of elephants that will permanently reside in his natural habitat.

The BBC produced a 30 minute documentary for the CBBC’s series, MY LIFE in August 2015 following 12 year old Natasha and her 14 year old brother Joe as they rescue a mother and her baby from a tourist camp in Thailand and trek for over 80 miles to set them free.

Gay Bradshaw

The Kerulos Center

Gay Bradshaw Ph.D. is an American psychologist and founder and director of the Kerulos Center in Jacksonville, Oregon.

The mission of the Kerulos Center is to achieve a world where animals live in peace and freedom. It translates this vision into everyday living by helping animals in need by empowering people to change their lives for animals to make all places sanctuary.

The Kerulos Center consists of an international community of faculty members and professional advisors from diverse disciplines working to improve the lives of animals through scientific understanding and service.

A key principle at the Kerulos Center is that knowledge is only valuable when translated into action.

While investigating what was referred to as an outbreak of “abnormal behaviors” in 2005, Bradshaw established that in fact African elephants were experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Psychological symptoms included inter- and intra-species aggression, abnormal startle response, depression, mood disorders and socio-emotional dysfunction, including infant neglect. All were related to a series of human-caused trauma: mass killings, translocations, social disruption and habitat loss and degradation.

Her findings were further supported by neuroscience research stating that the brain structures affected by trauma are highly conserved across species. The epidemic level of elephant PTSD signifies a critical point and portends imminent collapse of elephant societies in Asia and Africa.

Bradshaw authored the book, Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach us about Humanity in 2009 which discusses the emotional and social lives of elephants. It was honored as a 2009 Book of the Year Gold Medal Winner, Winner in Psychology, a Scientific American Favorite Science Book, a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize 2009, an Honorable Mention Award 2009 PROSE, a Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers and an Honorable Mention, 2010 Green Book Festival.

Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu, 1984 Noble Peace Prize Laureate: “African peoples and wildlife have been bound together in a delicate network of interdependence since ancient times. The arrival of colonialism tore apart these bonds: human brother now fights against elephant brother, and mothers of both species mourn. Elephants on the Edge is an urgent call to end this strife and for humanity to embrace once more the traditions that kept the peace with our animal kin.”

Carol Buckley

Founder, President and CEO, Elephant Aid International

Carol Buckley is an internationally-recognized authority in the rescue, rehabilitation and welfare of captive-held elephants known for her extensive knowledge of elephant values, physiology and culture. She has more than 40 years’ experience working with captive-held elephants creating innovative models that set new standards of care for elephants in captivity

Carol operated her own elephant management company, Tarra Productions, which she named after the elephant who became her partner and inspiration. They met in 1975 when Carol was studying exotic animal management at a nearby college and Tarra, a young calf taken from her mother and home in Burma, was the mascot of a tire dealership. Carol soon became Tarra’s caregiver and then her owner. They’ve been a team ever since, performing throughout the U.S., Canada and abroad in a number of circuses and zoos.

Sharing her life with Tarra gave Carol profound insight into the psyche and emotional needs of elephants, which she used to develop and manage elephant programs for a great number of zoos, wild animal parks and theme parks. When Tarra was 21, it was clear she had outgrown the only life then afforded a captive-held elephant. Carol then created The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee to give Tarra as natural a life as is possible in captivity.

In her 15 years at the Sanctuary, Carol rescued 23 elephants, including organizing and coordinating the rescue of the first elephant ever confiscated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In another unprecedented event, Buckley coordinated the rescue of eight female elephants confiscated from the Hawthorn Corporation by the USDA, the single largest rescue of elephants in U.S. history. She then designed individualized treatment programs to help them recover from the physical, psychological and emotional effects of nearly four decades of circus life. Carol is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades. In 2015,  Care2 named her one of "9 Women Saving the Planet," along with Jane Goodall, oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, “Blackfish” director Gabriella Cowperwaith and designer Stella McCartney. She received the Genesis Award in recognition of her innovative work in 2001 and has been named a Hero for The Planet by Time magazine and an Ambassador for Elephants by Asian Elephants Today. She has won accolades for her childrens’ book, Tarra and Bella : The Elephant and Dog who became Best Friends, published in 2009.

Carol has been the subject of numerous features in the New York Times Magazine, Parade, National Geographic, Chicago Tribune, People and Readers Digest. Her work has been featured on Oprah, ABC News 20/20, CBS News, CNN, the Canadian Broadcast Corp. and many others.

Her current organization, Elephant Aid International works in Asia hands-on with mahouts, NGOs, tourist facilities, elephant welfare groups, researchers and government officials in joint efforts to effect change by improving elephant welfare in captivity and in situ, as well as the lives of mahouts and their families who care for elephants.

In the USA, EAI is creating the next generation of sanctuary for elephants in captivity, Elephant Refuge North America (ERNA).

Carol and her work to improve elephant welfare in Asia are the subject of a forthcoming documentary film, “Unchained” (to be released in 2017).

David Casselman


David Casselman is an honors graduate of the University of Michigan and Southwestern University School of Law (later selected Alumnus of the Year). Mr. Casselman is recognized trial specialist, successfully representing both plaintiffs and defendants in complex litigation matters for almost 40 years. He holds the distinction of having secured two of the top ten largest jury verdicts in California in the same year, representing a plaintiff in one case, and a defendant, cross complainant in the other.

Mr. Casselman is a distinguished member of a variety of respected legal committees and organizations and taught both trial advocacy and insurance law. At the same time as his many litigation accomplishments, Mr. Casselman has also been a passionate defender of animals.

He began his legal career helping animals as pro bono counsel to the Los Angeles based Whale Rescue Team. Since then, he has handled a wide variety of legal matters representing the interests of animals, spanning from cats and dogs, to birds, pigs, horses, dolphins and elephants.

Among the most notable of his all pro bono efforts, Mr. Casselman prosecuted the highly publicized case focused on trying to stop the premature deaths of elephants at the L.A. Zoo. That case has been litigated for over nine years, proceeding successfully through trial and two appeals, only to be reversed on the issue of standing in a published 2017 California Supreme Court decision. His current efforts are focused upon forging a new path forward in the same case, pressing ahead with the same evidence of abuse, now grounded in a new theory.

In addition to the L.A. Zoo case, Mr. Casselman was one of the co-authors of the so-called "Hayden Law" in California, which requires extended medical care and protection for stray animals held by public shelters. He has testified in support of animal friendly legislation in Sacramento, California, and he has served as a pro bono mediator helping to forge agreements between public and private entities involving issues of animal care.

Finally, during the same time period, Mr. Casselman also founded the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary. which provides a natural jungle home to multiple rescued elephants, gibbons, monkeys and many other species indigenous to northwestern Cambodia. Volunteers from all over the world visit and work there 365 days a year.

Ever Vimbai Chinoda

Founder, Speak Out for Animals

Ever Vimbai Chinoda is the founder of Speak out for Animals, a non-profit organization based in USA and Zimbabwe, Africa. Speak Out for Animals is organized to educate about animal law and lobby for policies and legislation that are in the best interest of animals in Africa. Ever is the first and only Zimbabwean Animal Lawyer as she pursued her Animal Law LL.M. degree at Lewis and Clark Law School in USA, graduated with a Masters in Corporate Governance and Bachelor of Law Honors at the University of Zimbabwe. She has worked as a lawyer for six years in Zimbabwe, where she started her career as a public prosecutor under Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Justice enjoying prosecuting animal cases. She also works with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority as a staff attorney and her work mainly focuses on case monitoring, legislation and contract drafting, training and advocacy. She is also the legal advisor to the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Conservation Caucus.

Her passion is ensuring that more African lawyers dedicate their time and practice to animal protection and preservation. She has trained recent law graduates on animal law, and instructed rangers, prosecutors and the police on wildlife laws.  Her desire is to make an impact in protecting animals in Africa through the legal system. She also compiled a wildlife legal guide to assist the law enforcement agents in Zimbabwe to understand the current wildlife laws.

Ever devoted her career to the development and advancement of animal law. She has introduced the subject of animal rights in two law schools in Zimbabwe by starting Speak Out For Animals (SOFA)-Student Chapters. African law students are slowing being introduced to the concept and subject of animal law. “Animals in Africa deserve the same love and compassion just like in any other continent and the law should uphold that despite any cultural barriers.”

Catherine Doyle

DIRECTOR OF SCIENCE, RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY, Performing animal welfare society (paws)

Catherine Doyle is the Director of Science, Research and Advocacy for the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), which cares for captive wild animals at three sanctuaries in California. The largest facility is the 2,300-acre ARK 2000 natural habitat sanctuary, which provides refuge for rescued or retired elephants, bears, and big cats from zoos, circuses, or private owners.

Catherine has a Master of Science degree in Anthrozoology (Canisius College), where her research focused on keeper-elephant interactions. At PAWS she designs and carries out research involving elephant behavior and human-animal relationships; current research includes a long-term behavioral study of the five African elephants at ARK 2000.

In addition, Catherine leads captive wildlife advocacy efforts for PAWS, and has been successful in passing protective legislation such as the ban on elephant bullhooks in the state of California. Most recently she successfully spearheaded a ban on the exhibition of wild animals for entertainment in Los Angeles, including circuses, animal shows and house parties.

She organizes the biennial PAWS International Captive Wildlife Conference, which features leading authorities from the fields of scientific research, law, ethics, conservation, and animal welfare, care and policy. The next conference will take place November 9-11, 2018, in Los Angeles.

Catherine writes about elephants and the ethics of captivity (chapters in The Ethics of Captivity, Oxford University Press, 2014, and The Handbook of Practical Animal Ethics, Palgrave Macmillan, in press) and captive wildlife sanctuaries (Animal Journal, 2017).

She serves on the advisory board for The Whale Sanctuary Project, and on the Steering Committee for the recently created Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance.


Debbie Ethell

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, The KOTA Foundation for Elephants

Debbie is a conservation research scientist as well as the Executive Director of The KOTA Foundation for Elephants which she founded in 2015. KOTA stands for Keepers of the Ark based on the book by the same name written by Ray Ryan and also because she believes that what’s we all are: We have the power to save elephants or the power to let them all go extinct but in the end it’s in our hands.

The mission of the Portland, Oregon-based organization is to educate people in the US about all things African Elephant as a way to support positive outcomes for their survival. KOTA also has a project based in Kenya which is focused in areas with high levels of poaching, (Level 1 and Level 2 poachers), which are local villagers. KOTA intends to sell products these villages already produce infusing money back into the communities giving them a second option to poaching. They are currently fundraising in order to complete this mission.

Debbie worked as a research associate from 2012 to 2014 on the “Using Science to Understand Elephant Welfare” project, the largest captive elephant research project ever done in North America which included more than 100 zoos as well as 80 captive elephants across Canada and the United States. Her areas of focus were how far elephants moved or travelled in captivity and how long they slept, or the recumbency rate.

She became fascinated by elephants when she was eight years old, after she watched an episode of “60 Minutes” which featured the work of conservationist Dame Daphne Sheldrick. From that point forward she began to follow every elephant the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust rescued which eventually turned into another research project on elephant behavior. Today that list has blossomed into more than 450 elephants and she continues to work on it regularly.

Debbie graduated at the top of her class from Portland State University in 2014 with a science degree. She began her work as a science consultant for the Nonhuman Rights Project in 2016 with Steven Wise and Kevin Schneider for their case involving three circus elephants: Minnie, Beulah and Karen. Her blogs have been featured in national and international publications as well as scientific peer-reviewed journals. Her first book The Will of Heaven is set to be released in 2018.

Toni Frohoff

Elephant & Cetacean Scientist/ IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS

Toni Frohoff, Ph.D. is a wildlife behavioral-biologist who has obsessed over the lives, loves, and liberties of elephants, as well as dolphins and whales, for over 30 years. She specializes in the study of interspecies communication and interspecies psychology with an emphasis on the wellbeing of all non-human animals in the wild and captivity.  She is currently the Elephant Campaign Director for In Defense of Animals.

Toni has authored two books: Between Species (Sierra Club Books) and Dolphin Mysteries (Yale University Press). She has lectured widely including TED Global and The Smithsonian, Institute.  Her pioneering research and advocacy has contributed to legislation protecting wildlife in over a dozen countries and has been featured extensively in the media.

Frohoff has also served on a variety of boards, task forces, and committees, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Technical Consultant Group on Southern Sea Otter Recovery, Advisory Group for the Reintroduction of Keiko to the Wild, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wildlife Diversity Advisory Council, The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans L98 Scientific Panel, the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Ballard Locks Pinniped-Fisheries Task Force, Board of Directors for the Marine Animal Resource Center and the Island Wildlife Rehabilitation Shelter, and the Mexican Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries’ Programa de Recuperacón de Especies Prioritarias and the Scientific Consultant Team for Fundación Promar, Costa Rica.

Toni is the Director of Research and co founder of Terramar Research. She also spearheads IDA's annual Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants which highlights the problems of captivity for elephants in zoos.

Sangita Iyer


During the production of Gods in Shackles film, Sangita Iyer was deeply saddened by the plight of Kerala’s festival elephants. She realized that there was a significant lack of awareness and empathy for elephants, and used the documentary as an educational tool to empower the people of India, particularly students, who hold the key to the future of Planet Earth.

She felt it was not only necessary to address the nexus of culture and commerce, but also find safe havens for the endangered Asian elephants that were elevated to the status of Heritage Animal in 2010. She conceived and founded the Voice for Asian Elephants Society in her efforts to empower the people of India to end elephant slavery, especially in religious places that are designed to practice AHIMSA, and not cruelty.

Sangita Iyer was born and raised in a little village near the District of Palakkad in Kerala, southern India, where she frequently participated in festivities that glorified elephants. By the age of four she moved to Mumbai, where she did her schooling and university, but she missed interacting with her soul animals.

After obtaining an undergrad degree in B. Sc., Sangita taught in a primary school in Mumbai for a while. She eventually moved to Toronto, Canada, where she went back to school and did journalism hoping to educate the masses about nature and wildlife.

Sangita began her journalism career as a news desk assistant at CTV Toronto, then as a video journalist and host at Rogers’ OMNI Television in Toronto, followed by a stint at Bermuda’s ABC/CBS affiliate, where she reported and read the evening news.

In 2008 she co-founded Bermuda Environmental Alliance (BEA), a non-profit organization aimed at educating the public on nature and wildlife issues, and providing practical solutions aligned with earth stewardship. Over the years Sangita transitioned into producing nature and wildlife documentaries harnessing the power of sounds and images to communicate in a manner that resonated with people.

Sangita has received numerous awards over her career including in March 2017, Nari Shakti Puraskar – the highest award for women making a difference in India – from the Honorable President of India and December 2015 – November 2016 – Gods in Shackles documentary received 10 international film festival awards.

She has a Masters in Environmental Education and Communication, Royal Roads University, Victoria, B.C. (Canada), B.Sc. In Biology from the University of Bombay, India and a post-graduate diplomain Broadcast Journalism (Dean’s Honorary Role), Humber College, Toronto, ON (Canada)

Lisa Kane


Lisa Kane, JD, is the author of An Optimal Future for Woodland Park Zoo Elephants. Lisa practiced law for nearly three decades. She was a member of Association of Zoos and Aquariums from 2001-2007 working to improve conditions for elephants in zoos. She has traveled extensively in Africa visiting key elephant conservation programs. Lisa has observed elephant programs at twenty-one zoos throughout the United States, Europe, and Australia.

Lisa co-founded and was co-director of an ad hoc inter-disciplinary group, the Coalition for Captive Elephant Well-Being. Its membership included zoo industry professionals, veterinarians, animal behaviorists, academics, field scientists, animal welfare experts and public policy and law professionals. The group’s purpose was to develop and disseminate science based analysis and recommendations for institutions holding elephants in captivity. 

Lisa was the lead author and editor of two Coalition White Papers: ! “Optimal Conditions for Elephants in Captivity,” by Lisa Kane, JD, Debra Forthman, Ph.D., and David Hancocks; and ! “Best Practices by the Coalition for Captive Elephant Well-Being,” edited by Lisa Kane, JD, Debra Forthman, Ph.D., and David Hancocks. (Both documents are available on the Protocols, Manuals, and Standards page at
 http:/ under Management.) 

In 2006, the Coalition co-sponsored a two-day symposium, “A Symposium on Captive Elephants: Science and Welfare” at the Center for Animals and Public Policy, Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Participants included Joyce Poole, Ph.D., Terry Maple, Ph.D., Georgia Mason, Ph.D., Jake Veasey, Ph.D., Collen Kinzley, General Curator, Oakland Zoo, David Hancocks, and Susan Mikota, DVM. Fellowship Lisa was awarded an Animals and Society Institute Fellowship at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, Summer 2008. 

Larry Laverty


On the other end of a 30 year career as a Hollywood actor, Larry has been free for the past five years to dedicate time to his lifelong passions of photography and wildlife conservation. Beginning with the first Global March for Elephants in 2013, his life was altered by awareness of the injustice heaped on Africa's elephants by the ivory trade. 

As his understanding and appreciation of elephants grew, so too did his efforts grow to save them in the wilds and improve the lives of those held in captivity. Larry's photographs have been utilized by conservation groups around the world, decorate countless homes of elephant lovers, and will published in an upcoming book entitled Elephant Sunrise

Deena Metzger

Author, storyteller, and healer

Deena Metzger is an American writer, a poet, novelist, essayist, storyteller and healer living at the end of the road in Topanga, CA. A radical thinker on behalf of the natural world and planetary survival, a teacher of writing and healing practices for 50 years and a writer and activist profoundly concerned with peacemaking, restoration and sanctuary for a beleaguered world, she has written eight works of fiction, five poetry collections, several plays and works of non-fiction. Her books examine the tragic failure of contemporary culture and provide guidance for personal, political, environmental and spiritual healing.

She co-edited (with Linda Hogan and Brenda Peterson) the ground-breaking book, Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals, 1998 a critical anthology that reveals animal intelligence and agency, speaking to the profound knowledge that is gathered when relationships are intimate rather than alienated or "objective." The book contains essays by Toni Frohoff, Cynthia Moss, Katherine Payne, Jane Goodall and many others.

She has been in relationship with the Elephant people in the wild, beginning with the Elephant Ambassador in 1999, and has written of these relationships in Botswana, South Africa and Namibia in her books, Entering the Ghost River: Meditations on the Theory and Practice of Healing, 2002, in From Grief to Vision: A Council, 2006, also in Future Guardians of Peace, as well as on her Blog, Ruin and Beauty, and in the online Zine, Dark Matter: Women Witnessing.

Senior Consultant to the NGO, everyday gandhis, founded by writer, Cynthia Travis, which supports grassroots peacebuilding efforts in Liberia and West Africa, she documented relationships of the Elephants and the people including Master General’s decision to require his men to lay down their arms at the sight of a Elephant and her calf which he regarded as an omen animal during the last brutal civil war. 

The author of 17 books and contributor to countless journals and publications, Her novel, La Negra y Blanca won the 2012 Oakland Pen Award for Literature.  Her latest novel, A Rain of Night Birds novel bears witness: climate change arises from the same colonial mind that enacts genocide on the Native people of this county.  Deena has also been actively engaged in integrating Indigenous wisdom and medicine practices into .contemporary culture through her projects ReVisioning Medicine, the Literature of Restoration, Daré and the 19 Ways Training for the 5th World.

Adam M. Roberts


Adam M. Roberts, based in Washington, D.C., has spent more than a quarter century working internationally for animal protection and wildlife conservation.

 He is currently an advisory board member for The Elephant Project, an innovative new effort to establish humane communities and economies in elephant range states that provide sanctuary to elephants in need, while ensuring health, educational, and employment opportunities for the people who live near them.

 He is also a founding member of the board of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing species-specific humane standards of care for animals held in wildlife and farm animal sanctuaries, and accrediting facilities globally based on these standards.

In 2003, Adam founded The $10 Club, a charity to fund poverty alleviation projects in developing countries. He runs the organization singlehandedly, and as a volunteer. To date, the organization has supported work in more than 50 countries and has given out a quarter of a million dollars in grant awards.

Previously, Adam worked on wildlife issues – both related to captivity and conservation – for the Animal Welfare Institute and Born Free USA. He also served on the board of the Species Survival Network, a global coalition working to prevent over-exploitation of wildlife due to international trade. 

Adam has written more than 100 articles for various medical, legal, scientific, and advocacy organization publications around the world. He is a frequent lecturer/speaker at national and international conferences on issues concerning captive wild animals, compassionate conservation, and the protection of all animals.

He is a graduate of Vassar College and resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife, two children, two dogs, and five cats.

Matt Rossell

Formerly the Campaigns Director, Animal Defenders International, now with beagle freedom project

Matt Rossell has seen and documented animal suffering up close and personal. Early in his career as an animal advocate, he worked undercover at a fur farm and a slaughterhouse. Then in 1998 he began a stint working undercover as a primate technician at Oregon National Primate Research Center. The undercover video he took of the primates was released to the public and caused a firestorm in the media and led to an investigation by the USDA.

In 2001 he joined In Defense of Animals, and was appointed the Northwest Campaigns Director in Portland, OR. He continued his advocacy for the primates at ONPRC and he also worked on a campaign to help the Oregon Zoo elephants by lobbying the Oregon Zoo to build a spacious offsite preserve. It was due to his efforts and IDA's that the public learned about the need for more humane care for the zoo's elephants.

In 2011 he moved to Animal Defenders International in Los Angeles where he worked alongside fellow activists to end the use of elephants and lions in circuses. ADI's undercover reporting of Have Trunk Will Travel exposed the dark side of elephant training for entertainment. Matt is now working with Beagle Freedom Project.

Ray Ryan

former elephant keeper, San Diego Wild Animal Park


Ray's initial contact with an elephant and other exotic and wild animals came in 1976 when he was hired to be the caretaker of Pat Derby's animals on a ranch in Nipomo, California.  This was pre-PAWS days and he wound up taking care of a wide variety of animals including grizzly and black bears, Chinese leopards, a very large Siberian tiger (Chauncy, the Lincoln Mercury cougar), an adolescent lion, four wolves and one Asian elephant named Nina. After funding for his position ended, Ryan earned a degree in Psychology at San Diego State University. While studying there, he worked for a psychology professor caring for two barbary apes and running a very non-invasive study with them that involved matching shapes to their corresponding cut outs.

Ray was next hired as an elephant keeper for the African elephants at the (then named) San Diego Wild Animal Park.   He cared for seven female and one male African elephant for several years, and then was transferred to the Asian elephant exhibit. Ray noted a disturbing difference between caring for the African elephants, who were for exhibit purposes only, and the Asian elephants, who were forced to give shows and rides. The required handling procedures of the Asian elephants contained a level of abuse and violence Ray has never seen before on a consistent basis.

When Ray was close to leaving his position, an African elephant named Dunda was transferred from the San Diego Zoo to the San Diego Wild Animal Park, and to “break” her she was chained down on all four legs and brutally beaten for two days. The cruelty of this case eventually wound up in the California State Senate.  Ray, along with renowned animal activists Cleveland Amory and Pat Derby were asked to testify. Too much info came out of the hearing to list here.

Ray eventually wrote about his experiences in the book, “Keepers of The Ark: An Elephant's View of Captivity”. 

In 2003, three of the elephants formerly in Ray’s care were shipped from the Wild Animal Park to the Lincoln Park Zoo in downtown Chicago, where Ray had recently relocated.  Ray witnessed the elephants slowly die from the trauma of the move and the inhospitable climate.  One positive thing to emerge from this tragedy was that both zoos in the Chicago area vowed to never try to exhibit elephants again. 

In 2010 Ray was introduced to Dr. Gay Bradshaw, and was one of many contributors to her groundbreaking book, “Elephants on The Edge: What Animals Can Teach Us About Humanity”. 

 Ray is currently an advisor at The Kerulos Center for ABES- The All Bull Elephant Sanctuary.

Steven M. Wise

Founder and President of the
Non Human Rights Project (NhRP)



Steve Wise and the NhRP are working on groundbreaking cases to change the status of non human animals. Steve holds a J.D. from Boston University Law School and a B.S. in Chemistry from the College of William and Mary. He has practiced animal protection law for 30 years throughout the United States and is admitted to the Massachusetts Bar.

Steve teaches “Animal Rights Jurisprudence” at the Vermont, Lewis and Clark, University of Miami, and St. Thomas Law Schools, and has taught “Animal Rights Law” at the Harvard Law School and John Marshall Law School. He is the author of four books:

  • Rattling the Cage – Toward Legal Rights for Animals (2000),
  • Drawing the Line – Science and the Case for Animal Rights (2003),
  • Though the Heavens May Fall – The Landmark Trial That Led to the End of Human Slavery(2005), and
  • An American Trilogy – Death, Slavery, and Dominion Along the Banks of the Cape Fear River(2009).

He is also working on a fifth, which will be a memoir about the Nonhuman Rights Project. He has authored numerous law review, encyclopedia, and popular articles. His work for the legal rights of nonhuman animals was highlighted on Dateline NBC and was the subject of the documentary, A Legal Person. He regularly travels the world lecturing on animal rights jurisprudence and the Nonhuman Rights Project, and is a frequent guest on television and radio discussing animal rights law and the Nonhuman Rights Project.

Steve Wise and the NhRP are working on groundbreaking cases to change the status of non human animals, including a legal battle in Connecticut Superior Court to gain rights for the three elephants at Commerford Zoo in Goshen, CT.