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Animal Rights Group Takes On Wildlife Safari

Wildlife Safari has been in the cross hairs of an animal rights group for more than a decade.  Last week,  "In Defense of Animals"  named the park outside Winston to its “10 Worst Zoos for Elephants” list.  This is the 12th consecutive year

In Defense of Animals – I.D.A., based in California -- has accused the drive-thru park of abusing elephants, resulting in the recent death of a pachyderm named Alice. Dr. Toni Frohoff,  I.D.A.’s elephant science director, says Wildlife Safari blatantly exploits its animals in using them for car washes and rides.  She calls the use of bullhooks on the elephants archaic.  These are rods with a metal spike at one end.

Frohoff: "Use of bullhooks is being phased out in many zoos because it is a negative reinforcer that relies on fear and abuse, and  it has injured elephants in the past."

Wildlife Safari Executive Director Dan Van Slyke says the park was cleared by the responsible Federal agency of any culpability in the death of Alice, the elephant..   As to the use of bullhooks:

Van Slyke:  "It's an extension of your arm.  What we do is primarily protective contact, where you kind of  have a barrier between you and the elephant.  You can touch them on the shoulder, and it helps guide them.  Nobody in any institution affiliated with AZA that I know of has ever beaten an elephant with these."

AZA is the  Association of Zoos and Aquariums. ….Van Slyke says In Defense of Animals has never even visited Wildlife Safari. Dr. Frohoff says the organization relies on video footage taken at the park. 

Meanwhile, the nation's largest animal protection organization, the Humane Society of the United States, has once again named Oregon as the country's second most animal-friendly state in terms of legal protections.  California tops the list. 

Claude Offenbacher was a reporter and host at KLCC from 1999-2012. He currently volunteers as front desk support and PSA writer.