Sunday, November 09, 2008

Ned, Formerly of The Circus!, Now of The Elephant Sanctuary

In this spot was a photo of Ned's trainer looking decidedly sinister which I've since removed because although I thought it was funny BEFORE I found out Ned was underweight, now it's not so much.
The trainer has been vilified in the press and had it mentioned that he's expressed no remorse and I don't think it's because he's bad or evil. Maybe he's a bastard, I dunno, but he didn't SEEM to be one, but, I mean, I don't believe a guy is going to take an elephant he is abusing and malnourish with malice of forethought and then parade it in front of hundreds of people.
So rightly or wrongly, I think the guy did what elephant trainers DO, which isn't allow elephants to walk 30 to 50 miles per day but keep them relatively penned up and confined, transport them around and give them hay to eat. I've seen farmers and horsemen be MUCH rougher and seemingly cruel to their animals. So that being said, it felt better to take the sinister looking image down.
My only other reservation is that a paragraph at the website mentions the mistreatment of another elephant named Kenya which 'attacked and killed a woman' which due to the lack of specificity make a horrible situation sounds worse and according to press reports the woman killed was the trainer's sister who was ALSO an elephant trainer and the trainer of Kenya. 'Attacked and killed it's trainer" is equally tragic but more accurate.' Tomato, ToMAHto, but I feel it should be noted. Further noted: Kenya died 11 days after the attack of unknown causes.

As many Gentle Viewers will recall, this spring I did a series called People at Work®: The Circus!, a monumental and majestic blah blah blah...which I put here and on flickr.

Several weeks ago I get a nice letter from a nice lady working for a nice zoo in Oakland California asking if I have any information about this elephant and of course I don't because my greatest failing as a photographer is not asking the names of my subjects, leaving elephant names WAY down the list....

So I tell her as much as I know and don't hear anything back until I start to clean out my flick account (yes, CLEANING IT!) and the same nice woman, Colleen Kinzley, General Curator of the Oakland Zoo writes asking where they went. Then she explains how Ned is malnourished. I just thought he was 'narrow.'

Then I get a comment which I deleted on flickr from Sherle Raite, a very...ummm...STRONG and PASSIONATE elephant advocate if you know what I'm saying. She does volunteer graphics design and web stuff for The Elephant Sanctuary.

They both very nicely notified me of the press release: USDA confiscates Emaciated Elephant: Now in Route to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennesee.

Now as many of you also know. No animal lover, I. We have a peaceful coexistence of benign neglect and I'm not going to even pretend I was at the circus for some undercover Elephant shoot. I wasn't. In fact, I was surprised to even see one there. I teased an animal loving friend WHO OWNS A DOG AND WEARS LEATHER by asking her if she wanted to see a photo of an elephant chained to a dumpster. She replied that she'd rather die. So I said..Well they can't chain it to a PILLOW! Or a BIKE!

I left there thinking the elephant had a better gig that *I* do. However, I'm not 3 for 4 thousand pounds underweight, either, although my Doctor suggests from time to time that I'd be healthier if I were. I also didn't know elephants in the wild walk 30 to 50 milesper day or something. So if THAT'S the case. I get the point.

You can see more photos of Ned here.

Ned's Bio Page at

Attention backslapping USDA dudes who are Googling and emailing this post. Thanks a LOT for the Photo Credit on the photos handed out as 'Courtesy USDA' I saw ya! This won't happen under the OBAMA Administration! :)

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  1. Not that I know anything about elephants, but he looks horribly emaciated. Bastards. I hope they got a whopping big fine.

  2. Could they at least have linked back to the man who saved the pachyderm?

    I mean, don't they even understand page rank?

  3. From an email from Sherle Raite:

    Hi Jeff,

    I've been a volunteer graphic and web designer for The Elephant Sanctuary for about 6 years. I started working with them when a local (Vancouver BC) elephant, Tina, was sent to the sanctuary and I've been hooked on the elephant issue ever since. There is so much education that needs to get out to the public concerning the treatment of elephants in circuses.

    I currently manage parts of their website for them and I produce their newsletter. As you might be aware, they do phenomenal work with rescued elephants from circuses and zoos. They also received the only other elephant that the USDA has confiscated (Delhi) and the 12 terribly abused elephants that were taken from the circus trainers, Hawthorn, a few years ago. They are the only sanctuary that provides over 2000 acres of natural habitat for elephants that normally walk 30 - 50 miles a day..pretty hard to do in a zoo or circus tent.

    No, I could see by your photos that your interest was in the elephant, not in his treatment or lack thereof. It's painfully common that folks aren't aware of what happens to these wonderful animals as they spend a terrible, unnatural lifetime in circuses. You would be horrified to learn the type of treatment they receive in training them to do things for entertainment.

    Sorry..don't mean to rant on, but I'm pretty passionate about this issue.

    If you like I can put you directly in contact with someone at The Elephant Sanctuary to discuss the proper usage of your photos. You can keep it as simple and discrete as you like. Putting the photos online really helps to educate people about elephants, and also helps to raise the necessary funds for their medical treatments and lifetime care.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my email.

    R8 Design

  4. From an email from Colleen Kinzley:

    Hi Jeff,

    I though you might like to know about the out come for Ned. This is extremely good news and the Elephant Sanctuary is a wonderful place. It is extremely rare that USDA takes such extreme action but this elephant was horribly abused. Apparently, they had been just barely feeding him for years to save money and to keep him more docile. We have you to thank because of your photos we were able to make a complaint to USDA .

    Thanks so much,

    Colleen Kinzley
    General Curator
    Oakland Zoo

  5. Think they'll rename the elephant after you? No, not THAT! Your real name.

  6. I am *SO* never going to be allowed near a Circus again.

  7. You'll just have to go in clown makeup.

    Oops... Oh, wait...

  8. From emails from Kate Elliot

    Hi there, we were sent two photos by the USDA which we posted on Neds bio page,
    which I see must be yours, please let me know how you would like the photo credit to read, and we would also like to link to your photos of Ned from his page.

    I know this was not your intent, but you have done a remarkable thing, Ned is here, eating and eating, and the healing has begun!
    we will try to find a place for other photos, but at least we will put the link up, prepare for emails from our ele-fans!!!

    Ned is amazing, we have rescued other emaciated elephants and they have unfocused, hidden cloudy gazes Ned’s eyes are alive, his eyes are bright, he is great.

    Thanks again, yes the abuse and domination is brutal, and it is terrible that Ned went under the radar for so long, so thanks for what you have done.



    Kate Elliott-Managing Director
    The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee

  9. Thanks for linking The Elephant Sanctuary. Indirectly, you have saved this elephants life. My belief is that he would have died before being saved, had your pictures not been put on your website.

    Neds condition is so sad. His "trainer" (I won't mention his name here) should be ashamed (at the very least) of himself - but honestly, I've read his response, and he isn't. There's no punishment too painful for him - Karma!!

  10. I know I'm kinda late on this post...thanks for writing a few paragraphs to let us know how this all happened. I saw the pictures on the sanctuary's site and they make you sound like an absolute hero who went looking for sick elephants and then notified the authorities right away! Knowing that you're just a regular guy who takes an irregular number of pictures, posts them on his humble website and got noticed by some animal advocates is pretty amazing. There's tons of photoblogs on the internet, but I bet yours is the only one who saved an animal's life by sheer chance.

  11. "I don't believe a guy is going to take an elephant he is abusing and malnourish with malice of forethought and then parade it in front of hundreds of people."

    Why not? You never noticed the emaciation. Bad people do whatever they can get away with, and no parade means no revenue, so the show goes on. Under feeding as a behavior control mechanism has a long history. If Ned returns to normal weight without evidencing any medical problems, then his previous owner will be struggling to convince anyone that the "picky eater" defense has any merit.

    I'm not sounding off at you, because I'd be happy to buy you a drink any day of the week. However reluctant you may be to take credit for Ned's rescue (and clearly plaudits are inappropriate) I think you are entitled to feel just a little bit secretly pleased with the part you played. Some have greatness thrust upon them--Winston Churchill.

  12. Jeff,
    I am one of those ele-fans that Kate warned you about, and I just wanted to say Thank You for what you have done for Ned. Without your photos he might still be suffering.
    Jane S.
    Toronto, Canada

  13. Jane: Yeah, I was warned about the Ele-fans. Heh heh. Thank them for me.

    Anon: I'd TAKE that drink even though I agree that plaudits are inapparopriate. And I'm maybe more secretly proud more than pleased. I think any photogrpher would like to have their images be of value to someone. I'd be prouder if I were all sneaking over fences and under bushes getting shots of what I KNEW was poor animal treatment but, sadly, I was just another member of the animal exploitation league. Besides, it's was just to impress Leigh, who FINALLY left a comment!

  14. From an email: Are you the wonderful man who took those horrid pictures of poor Ned the elephant? You helped save him!!!!
    Every other person saw how sickly looking he was and never spoke up, shame on them. The devil is certainly here among us!
    As are angels like you. May you be blessed tenfold. You STILL had something to do with saving that poor sickly looking elephant. It's called, Karma. I believe in that. You must be a wonderful person! I have no kind words for Lance, Karma will get him very differently!!

    And I love your pictures!


  15. You can say what you want about Ele-fans but you have to admit, they are an enthusiastic and passionate bunch.

  16. hee...

    Mr. Kirlin:

    I am one of the USDA Investigators who handled the confiscation of "Ned" the elephant. As part of my follow-up investigation I need to make contact with you for an affidavit validating that you took the pictures that are listed on your site as well as the date and time they were taken. If you could provide your contact information I will have one of our Investigators in your area get in touch with you...Thanks...

    Dale R. Boyles
    Senior Investigator, Florida
    United States Department of Agriculture
    Investigative and Enforcement Services
    920 Main Campus Drive, Suite 200
    Raleigh, NC 27606
    Cell: 813-486-9019

  17. Your photos of Ned and his story are circulating in the Bangor, Maine area now. The Anah Temple Shrine Circus returns to Bangor this weekend.

    Thank you for photographing Ned and helping with his rescue.


  18. I wasn't TRYING to save any elephant as my many friend who know me as an exploitative, uncaring, SOB will attest.

    I called the lovely Andy Constantine to ask if I could return this year for more photos and he said 'You want to do THAT again, huh?' and said I could.

    Health and family obligations kept me away but I appreciated his generosity very much.

  19. The USDA is a joke! Run by a bunch of Vets that could not make it running a real practice!
    Most of the USDA vets are hired right out of school . Dont rely on anything they say!!!!!

  20. Look at all the Elephant Deaths the elephant sanctuary has had. Plus this lady speaks animal abuse (Carol Buckley) and for years she was in the Circus and made the elephant wear roller skates! Hypocrites

  21. Lucky Ned. Poor baby. This makes me love you just a little bit more, Kirlin.