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Thursday, March 22, 2012

OC Fair could end elephant rides after 25 years
Fair board on Thursday will discuss a new contract with Have Trunk Will Travel; one board member wants attraction canceled.

Kitty, a 42-year-old Asian elephant watches as OC Super Fair 5k walkers wave to her as they wind their way through the Orange County Fair in 2009. The Fair board on Thursday will discuss a proposal to cancel the attraction after 25 years.
MINDY SCHAUER, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
By SEAN GREENE / FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER 
March 21, 2012
COSTA MESA The Orange County Fair board will consider ending elephant rides after 25 years.
Following recent safety concerns expressed for both humans and elephant, Fair Board Director Nick Berardino has recommended to his colleagues that the attraction be cancelled.

The board plans to discuss renewing a contract with Have Trunk Will Travel, the Fair's longtime provider of elephant rides, at its regular meeting Thursday.
The Santa Ana Zoo recently ended its 25-year agreement with the company to align with new professional industry standards adopted by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums last August. The standards say elephant care providers "shall not share the same unrestricted space with elephants, except in certain, well-defined circumstances," according to a fair board staff report.
Those standards only apply to AZA-accredited institutions — of which the O.C. Fair and Event Center is not — but the changes still raise questions about the safety and liability of direct interaction with the seven-ton animals, according to the report.


 Kari Johnson and her husband Gary are the owners of Have Trunk Will Travel, a company that supplies elephants for commercials, movies and rides at the zoo. Their mission statement says it is "to provide the public with safe, educational and recreational access to the earth's most wonderful mammal, the elephant."
MINDY SCHAUER, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
The new guidelines take effect in 2014 — long enough for zoos to change their facilities so that humans and elephants no longer work in a shared space, Berardino said.
"For us, we don't have to do anything in terms of infrastructure," he said. "I think there shouldn't be any reason why we wouldn't want to adhere to the new guidelines and just ensure that no one is going to get hurt there. That includes elephants the trainers and certainly our patrons."
Berardino, who was appointed to the board last summer, said it is important to explore the elephant rides issue both in terms of treatment of the animals and the liability.
His interest was "piqued" months ago after seeing a television news story of circus elephants reportedly "going into rages" after undergoing unkind training, he said.
Kari Johnson, co-owner of Have Trunk Will Travel, said her elephants have not had a single accident in their 25 years at the O.C. Fair. She said the issue is not about potential liability to the Fair.
 Nicholas, Todd, Jessica, Sonia and Mary Yenche take a safari ride on an elephant at the Orange County Fair in July 2011.
PHOTO COURTESY OF DONALD YENCHE

Elephant trainer Keith Jones walks with 7,000-pound Becky as she gives rides to visitors at the Santa Ana Zoo.
MINDY SCHAUER, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
read more at: http://www.ocregister.com/news/fair-345691-elephants-elephant.html

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