A Comforting Hug

Sanctuary, or Marine Park? | Dolphin Project

A true sanctuary will limit visitor access so that the dolphins are allowed to live in peace.


Based on inquiries we have received, it appears there is some amount of confusion about facilities that list themselves as “sanctuaries” yet keep dolphins for display and interactive programs. We’ve compiled some tips here to help potential customers research before they support a captive dolphin facility.

Photo ops

Selfie or photo opportunities, or any form of guaranteed petting/kisses/etc. In order for a visitor to be guaranteed that they get to touch a dolphin, that dolphin has been trained and is actively receiving reinforcement to perform.

Facility descriptions can be misleading

Names and labels can be misleading. Just because a facility calls itself a “Wildlife Sanctuary” does not make it so– do your research before visiting any park with wildlife. Also beware that some facilities use their charitable status or scientific labels to mislead.

Captive dolphin in Florida sea pen

Captive dolphin in Florida sea pen

Many marine parks claim their dolphins can “leave any time”. This may be technically true, but most dolphins will not jump a barrier or swim out of a pen because they cannot tell what is on the other side. Captive dolphin facilities would never take the risk of losing their investments. They know very well that their dolphins would not venture into the open sea, even if given the chance: Many captive dolphins have spent so much time in captivity, they have become dependent on people for food and other basic needs. Many of them were born into this unnatural existence, and they cannot simply “go home,” as they have no family pod to connect with.

A natural sea pen may also be a captive environment. It does not equate with being free in the wild.

Water quality in captive sea pen

Captive sea pen in the Caribbean

Wild dolphins can be exploited for profit too! If booking a swim with wild dolphins tour or whale watching tour, pursuit should never be allowed. A boat should never chase a pod of dolphins to get closer to them, or guarantee that you will see dolphins or be able to swim with them. Responsible tours do not permit touching wild dolphins or whales! A responsible tour operator will always abide by and endorse local dolphin/whale watching laws.

Activities and programs

Paid interactions or scheduled activities such as shows, exhibits, or demonstrations should be a warning– it means that the dolphins are expected to be in place and remain for a certain period of time, or perform, which are indications of active training.

Breeding or Calf Births

Breeding or the birth of calves: Staff may make it seem that dolphins are bred in captivity to help wild populations. In reality, these dolphins will not be contributing to wild populations as they will never be released. Dolphins are bred in captivity for the sole purpose of having more captive dolphins to profit from. Facilities that promote or celebrate calf births should be treated with caution.

Where did the animals come from?

If a facility buys, trades, or breeds dolphins, they are likely not a sanctuary. Real sanctuaries prefer to have as few animals as possible to ensure the most amount of space, attention and freedom. Businesses want more dolphins so they can sell more interactions. Sanctuaries have release as their top priority, rather than trying to keep as many rescues as they can.

Munjawa takes one last look at our team, seconds before she was successfully released back in her home range.

Munjawa was released to her home range by Dolphin Project’s Indonesian team after assessment.

After Rehabilitation

Many captive dolphin facilities also serve as rehabilitation centers. While it is true that some rescued dolphins cannot safely return to the wild, they should not be forced to perform and entertain in order to earn their keep. Sanctuaries would not require participation of rescued dolphins in shows or force human interactions, which can cause stress.

Captive bottlenose with basketball

Captive bottlenose with basketball

A real dolphin sanctuary is a place where non-releasable dolphins that were exploited by the dolphinarium industry can live out their lives with peace and dignity.

It is place where the dolphins’ needs are met with no strings attached.

There are no dolphin shows and no interactions programs.

The dolphins receive food without having to perform any trained behaviors.

No commercial photo ops are offered to visitors.

The dolphins live in a sea pen or a floating sea enclosure away from crowds of people, traffic, and human noise.

Every attempt is made to make the dolphins’ lives as natural and independent as possible.

The dolphins receive the food and medical attention that they need.

Whenever possible, live fish are introduced to the sea pen.

Dolphins in a true sanctuary are identified properly as victims, rather than ambassadors.

No visitors are allowed to touch or in any way handle the dolphins.

A true sanctuary makes educational material available to the public about the wrongs of capturing, confining, breeding, and exploiting dolphins in shows and various interaction programs.

A true sanctuary has a fundamental policy of opposing the use of dolphins as tourist attractions that aim to entertain.

A true sanctuary may allow visitors in order to educate them about the reasons why dolphins do not belong in captivity.

A true sanctuary acknowledges that dolphins belong in nature, wild and free.

A true sanctuary is for dolphins that cannot safely be released back into the wild.

A true sanctuary never tells visitors that the dolphins are free to leave whenever they want, as this ignores the fact that non-releasable dolphins depend on their caregivers to survive.

Captive breeding is not allowed in a real sanctuary. There is no reason for a dolphin to be born in captivity.

A real sanctuary does not accept donations from the captivity industry or the tuna industry.

Hopefully, the public will leave the sanctuary with enough knowledge to tell others not to buy a ticket for a dolphin show or captive dolphin swim program.

A true sanctuary will have clear rules in place about appropriate behavior for visitors, so that the comfort and safety of the animals remains the highest priority. A true sanctuary recognizes that visitors are guests, but the animals are the residents. They deserve dignity and respect in their home.


Enjoying her retirement

Petition · Support a dolphin sanctuary in New South Wales! · Change.org


Zippy, Bella, and Jet – the last three remaining dolphins in captivity in NSW – could live happy and healthy lives in a dolphin sanctuary in Coffs Harbour.

Ask NSW Minister for Environment, Matt Kean, to support completion of the feasibility study to build this sanctuary.

The sanctuary would retire Zippy, Bella, and Jet and could help rescue and rehabilitate stranded cetaceans on the east coast of Australia. 

It would see Dolphin Marine Conservation Park transition to a venue based on education, rescue and rehabilitation, and protect the jobs and income the Park brings to the Coffs region. 

The NSW Upper House recommended support for completing the feasibility study  in the recent Parliamentary Inquiry into the exhibition of cetaceans. The decision is now in the hands of the Minister for Environment – The Hon. Matt Kean. 

Can you help convince the government to support the retirement of captive dolphins to a sanctuary?Please sign the petition calling on Environment Minister Hon. Matt Kean to support this project. 

Multiple feasibility tests have already been completed, including wave and tidal analysis and animal welfare assessments. 

Your signature will help apply the necessary pressure on the Minister in charge of this decision and could lead to the building of Australia’s first-of-it’s-kind dolphin sanctuary.


“Man who rescued Winter, star of ‘Dolphin Tale’ movies, hopes her memory inspires people”

Winter the Dolphin Dies | Dolphin Project


Winter the dolphin, Clearwater Aquarium 12Nov

Winter the dolphin, known for her usage of a prosthetic tail, has died.

According to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where she had been held in captivity for close to 16 years, Winter had been suffering from intestinal abnormalities. Despite the facility’s efforts, on the evening of November 11, during preparation for a procedure, Winter’s behavior and vital signs began to decline, resulting in her passing.

“We are saddened to learn of Winter’s passing. She could have greatly benefitted from the construction of a seaside sanctuary in the Florida sunshine instead of living in a concrete tank, inside a building. Winter could have retired in peace and dignity, and enjoyed a more normal environment – the great outdoors, the changing tides, and the sounds and rhythms of the sea. From my experience, this is where the healing process begins. While Winter will never get this opportunity, we encourage facilities such as the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to build ocean water sanctuaries for their rescued dolphins and other whales.” ~ Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project

In December 2005, the three-month-old bottlenose dolphin, after being freed from a crab pot in the waters near Cape Canaveral, Florida, was brought to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The dolphin’s resilience prevailed – while her grievous injuries resulted in the loss of her tail – she regained her strength and survived.

One year later, in 2006, the Hanger Clinic began work to create a prosthetic tail. After eighteen months, she was fitted with the device. In a blog post written by the clinic, the technology used to fit the prosthetic on Winter resulted in the development of a gel liner, called WintersGel, which is now benefitting human patients.

A necropsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of Winter’s death. A heart attack is suspected.

Featured image: Winter the dolphin, Clearwater Aquarium. Credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license; Flickr; Author: Paul

Dolphin Project Take Action Now


Ever wonder where Jack O’Lanterns go after Halloween

Happy 40th Birthday, Ndume

  Today (Oct. 10, 2021) gorilla Ndume turns 40 and we are sending him birthday wishes and love. We are happy to report that recently he is forming close bonds with females Chewie and Mara in his family group at the Cincinnati Zoo. For us, this is a big bright spot in the many changes he faced by being moved from The Gorilla Foundation sanctuary to a zoo. 

He has been deemed to be in good health by the team there which is great news to all of us who cared for him for close to 30 years. 

We know he is well-loved by his caregivers at the Cincinnati Zoo, and we miss seeing, interacting and communicating with him every day. 

We wish there could have been a way to create a natural family group for him here at the sanctuary with his human friends, familiar surroundings and greater autonomy too, but that proved impossible to arrange. He continues to receive excellent care, and we get to visit him twice per year to let him know we love and remember him. 

Please enjoy the above tribute video of Ndume on his milestone birthday and join us in sending him some birthday love. 

Thank you! 


Penny Patterson, Ph.D. 
President and Director of Research
The Gorilla Foundation / Koko.org


The Gorilla Foundation
P.O. Box 620530    Woodside, CA  94062
Phone: 1-800-ME-GO-APE     Email:  info@koko.org
Nonprofit 501c3 Federal Tax ID:  94-238-6151
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Heartbreaking story of elephant named Nina who was intentionally BLINDED by her cruel owners & left with…

Nina was held in chains and intentionally blinded by her owners, experts say


Mark Hodge

A TORTURED elephant used for begging and as a prop for wedding processions was “intentionally blinded” by its cruel owners.

The elderly animal named Nina, aged 60, was rescued by charity Wildlife SOS in Uttar Pradesh, India.

The elephant’s eyeballs have collapsed or sunken after years of abuse

Initially, the abused elephant showed signs of PTSD such as severe anxiety and bobbing her head continually when saved earlier this year.

When elephants are captured in the wild in India they are often subjected to a brutal process called “Phajaan” which literally means “breaking of the spirit.”

The animal is put in a confined space where they are starved and beaten until they become subservient to their captors.

Shockingly, depraved people intentionally destroy the eyes of the elephants – blinding them – to gain more sympathy while begging.

Nina was also used in wedding processions where she was painted, made to carry heavy ornaments and forced to walk on hot tarmac roads from one ceremony to another surrounded by loud music.

And when she was not being brutally abused, the poor Asian elephant was held in chains, unable to move around.

The horrific work conditions and lack of proper nutrition and care led to Nina developing various physical ailments such as arthritis and damaged limbs as well as numerous scars and wounds on her body.

Dr Ilayaraja, Deputy Director of Veterinary Services at Wildlife SOS, told The Sun Online: “Nina suffers from a degenerative joint condition that affects her hind limbs. Her forelimbs are affected due to compensatory weight-bearing.

“Both eyes are damaged completely, possibly due to external trauma and lack of medical attention. She has been placed under a carefully calibrated diet to regain strength.”

After consultations with eye specialists from India and UK, the Wildlife SOS team was saddened to learn that Nina’s loss of vision was almost certainly intentionally inflicted.

Her left eyeball has completely collapsed due to an untreated injury and her right eye had shrunken.

Nina was rescued and brought to the charity’s Elephant Hospital Campus in Mathura, India first-ever medical facility for elderly and injured elephants.


She will now spend her remaining years being cared for by the team at Wildlife SOS where she is housed in an enclosure which is never changed so she can use her sense of smell and touch to navigate her way around.

The 60-year-old elephant often ventures out into the open field at the Wildlife SOS centre and even enjoys a shower every day.

Nina showed signs of discomfort in the initial days following her rescue as she found herself in a new environment, the charity says.

Yet, in the short time that the elephant has been with Wildlife SOS, she has grown comfortable with her caregiver and is adjusting to her free range enclosure.

Ms Tamarisk Grummit, who represents Wildlife SOS in the UK says, “Nina has found a happy and loving home at Wildlife SOS. Watching her evolve into a gregarious elephant is proof that we must continue treading the path to help Elephants in distress across India.”


Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder & CEO of Wildlife SOS, said: “India is the last stronghold for the Asian elephant population where 50 per cent of the remaining populations occur and it is critically important to conserve and protect this majestic species.

“At Wildlife SOS, we try our best to give the elephants a life of freedom and dignity. Caring for blind elephants, in particular, can be challenging as they require specialised care and constant monitoring.

“We are committed to creating a safer place for wildlife across India and change the perception of people towards wildlife.”

The charity, which relies on donations, is working towards raising funds for the care and upkeep of 33 elephants.

You can make a difference by contributing towards the cause at http://www.wildlifesos.org/donate.

For more details, visit wildlifesos.org or email info@wildlifesos.org. For any queries, contact the Wildlife SOS UK Campaign Officer, Debbie Haynes-+44 07831433106 Abused elephants are forced to walk for miles and then held in chains when they are not working The cracked feet of an elephant captured in the wild and then tortured in India



Record rise in tiger population in Manas National Park may cause infighting & deaths


Sentinel Digital Desk


GUWAHATI: Over three-fold increase in the number of adult tigers in the Manas National Park in a decade that has created a national record in tiger conservation in the country, may also result in infighting inside the park.

Such fear and apprehension are seen among renowned wildlife activists and NGOs.

“Better management and protection measures have increased to tigers in Manas, which is a positive sign. But in coming years, the focus should be given on the management of the prey base, so that deaths due to infighting do not take place”, said Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, CEO of Aaranyak, leading wildlife protection and conservation NGO said.

The National Park once ravaged by the problem of insurgency can now boast of having 38 adult tigers. The park had only 10 adult tigers in 2010.

The 12th annual camera trapping survey conducted this year has revealed the presence of 48 tigers, of which 38 are adults, 3 sub-adults and 7 cubs in Manas. Among the adult tigers, 21 are females, 16 males and 1 unidentified sex. The extensive systematic camera trap survey was carried out for the first time in Manas Tiger Reserve covering Manas National Park, First Addition to Manas National Park and Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary-together covering a total area of 876 sq. km approximately.

The annual survey in Manas using camera-traps is led by the Field Director of Manas Tiger Reserve and supported by Aaranyak and WWF India and has been continuing since 2010 in Manas for monitoring the tigers, co-predators and prey animals, with constant support from various donors and collaborators. This year Manas is celebrating the 12th year of collaboration with Aaranyak and WWF India for the annual camera trapping survey dedicated to assessing the population status of tigers in the area.

Dr M Firoz Ahmed, scientist and head of Tiger Research and Conservation Division, Aaranyak said, “Manas is a unique landscape that offers tremendous scope for conservation of Tigers and another biodiversity in a transboundary conservation landscape. The future of conservation of the landscape lies with both India and Bhutan as the forest on either side of the international boundary complements with each other, which was proved by new understandings how individual tigers share transboundary space.”

Also Read: A 3-fold rise in Manas tiger population creates a conservation record


Umah Lumba Rehabilitation, Release and Retirement Center | Dolphin Project


In September 2019, BKSDA Bali Forestry Department in Bali, Indonesia and the Ministry of Forestry initiated the idea for a first ever permanent dolphin rehabilitation, release and retirement facility for formerly performing dolphins. Working with local partners Jakarta Animal Aid Network to supply the manpower and Dolphin Project to provide the financial support and supervision, the team built the Umah Lumba Rehabilitation, Release and Retirement Center in Banyuwedang Bay, West Bali (“Umah Lumba” means “dolphins” in Balinese.)

The Umah Lumba Center is a purpose-built facility for recently confiscated dolphins from captive facilities, and for stranded or injured dolphins. The facility is designed to stabilize the mammals, return them back to health and to assess whether they are candidates for readaptation and release.

For dolphins deemed releasable, they will be taken to Camp Lumba Lumba Readaptation and Release Center in Karimun Jawa, the world’s first permanent facility dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of dolphins. The mammals will then be prepared for return into their home range. The location was specifically chosen because the majority of dolphins were captured from the Karimunjawa National Park, and releasing them here would offer a good chance for the mammals to reunite with their family pods.

For dolphins deemed unreleasable, they can retire at the Umah Lumba Center in a safe and healing seapen, and live out the rest of their lives in peace and dignity.

Presently we have three dolphins in our care: Rocky, Rambo and Johnny. Captured in the Java Sea, the dolphins, for several years, were incarcerated in a shallow, heavily chlorinated swimming pool in North Bali. Since their relocation to the Umah Lumba Center, they have benefited from a robust rehabilitation program and continue to undergo regular evaluation towards a possible release.

The dolphins receive 24/7 round-the-clock care. We have a full-time staff veterinarian, security guards and caregivers. The center is a true rehabilitation, release and retirement facility, where our team is committed to making the dolphins’ lives as natural and independent as possible. In March 2020, Dolphin Project, in anticipation of the arrival of additional confiscated dolphins (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) tripled the size of our facility.

As the world’s first permanent dolphin rehabilitation, release and retirement facility in the world, the Umah Lumba Center must be a model of success. Ideally, it will act as a prototype for others to be built globally, as demand for captive dolphins wane.

Support Now


Show Your Support – Adopt A Dolphin


Johnny at the Umah Lumba Center, Bali Indonesia

Captured in the Java Sea, Indonesia, Johnny is an older dolphin who lived several years in isolation inside a shallow swimming pool at the Melka Excelsior Hotel in North Bali. Crowds of people bought tickets to swim with him, and those were the only times he had any company. To make the water appear clean to paying customers, hotel staff added chlorine and other harmful chemicals. This hurt Johnny’s eyes so badly, he went blind. In addition, Johnny has no teeth left, and his right pectoral fin has been permanently damaged. When we first found him, he was also critically underweight. Johnny was destined to spend the rest of his life trapped in the tank, performing for tourists and other guests.

On October 8, 2019, we rescued Johnny from the hotel and transported him to our facility. Under our 24/7 expert care, he has since gained weight and strength, and spends his days exploring the large sea pen, where he experiences the natural rhythms and sounds of the sea. Johnny’s diet consists of high-quality fresh fish, and he is gaining weight and strength. The healing properties of a diet consisting of high-quality fresh fish, along with real ocean water are having a positive effect: Johnny often expresses his joy with energetic jumps, and he spends much time swimming, diving, and playing. We are continuing to evaluate Johnny for potential release, and are committed to doing everything in our power to ensure the rest of his life is filled with peace and dignity. Adopt Johnny today to help provide for his care!

Johnny Adoption Package


With a recommended minimum donation of $25, you’ll get a personalized adoption certificate for Johnny (its beautiful artwork suitable for framing), gorgeous underwater photos which are perfect for adorning all your electronic devices, Johnny’s biography, Dolphin Facts, a Dolphin Warrior booklet and quarterly updates about Johnny!



Rocky in floating sea pen, Bali, Indonesia.

Rocky at the Umah Lumba Center, Bali, Indonesia


When Rocky was violently captured in the Java Sea several years ago, he lost everything that makes life worth living for a dolphin: his family, his world of sound, and the ability to swim freely in a vast ocean world. Rocky spent several years incarcerated in a shallow, heavily chlorinated swimming pool at the Melka Excelsior Hotel in North Bali. He was trained to obey commands and perform in theatrical shows that attract crowds of fun-seeking holiday makers. In between repetitive, rowdy shows, Rocky spent much time logging on the surface, and could only swim a few feet before a wall stopped him. Confinement in such barren, unnatural surroundings took a heavy toll on Rocky’s well-being, and his future looked bleak and hopeless.

Thankfully, we were able to rescue Rocky on August 5, 2019, and transported him to a temporary floating sea enclosure in Sanur. In December 2019 Rocky was transported from Sanur to our facility. Here, in the crystal-clear waters of our spacious sea pen, he is once again enjoying the natural rhythms and sounds of the sea. Rocky is benefitting from the healing properties of natural sea water and is gaining weight and strength. Rocky loves to participate in boisterous, energetic play, and he especially loves to swim fast. Never again will he have to perform tricks for food or experience confinement in a minuscule concrete tank. Our 24/7 expert team of veterinarians and caregivers are currently evaluating Rocky for possible release. Adopt Rocky today to help provide for his care!

Rocky adopt a dolphin package


With a recommended minimum donation of $25, you’ll get a personalized adoption certificate for Rocky (its beautiful artwork suitable for framing), gorgeous underwater photos which are perfect for adorning all your electronic devices, Rocky’s biography, Dolphin Facts, a Dolphin Warrior booklet and quarterly updates about Rocky!

Adopt Rocky


Rambo at the Umah Lumba Center, Bali, Indonesia

Rambo at the Umah Lumba Center, Bali, Indonesia

Adopt Rambo

Rambo was torn from his family and pod members in the Java Sea during a violent capture several years ago. He was confined to a shallow chlorinated swimming pool at the Melka Excelsior Hotel in North Bali for the purposes of entertaining crowds of tourists during loud theatrical performances. Rambo shared a tank with a dolphin named Gombloh, and the two dolphins formed a close friendship. Sadly, Gombloh took his last breath on August 3, 2019, just two days before we were able to rescue and relocate Rambo. Hotel staff found Gombloh’s lifeless body in the same tank where Rambo was confined.

We rescued Rambo on August 5, 2019 and transported him to a temporary floating sea enclosure in Sanur. In the following weeks, Rambo gained weight and strength, and in December 2019 Rambo was transported to our facility. There will be no more languishing in a small, barren concrete world, and no more theatrical dolphin shows to perform. All of that is behind him. Rambo is a younger dolphin who appears to be in good health, highly energetic and full of life. He is enjoying the healing benefits of natural sea water and the ability to dive and swim. Our 24/7 expert team of veterinarians and caregivers are currently evaluating Rocky for possible release. Adopt Rambo today to help provide for his care!

Rambo adopt a dolphin package


With a recommended minimum donation of $25, you’ll get a personalized adoption certificate for Rambo (its beautiful artwork suitable for framing), gorgeous underwater photos which are perfect for adorning all your electronic devices, Rambo’s biography, Dolphin Facts, a Dolphin Warrior booklet and quarterly updates about Rambo!

Adopt Rambo


Remembering Dewa 

Captured in the Java Sea, Dewa was an older dolphin who was severely affected by the trauma he suffered during his confinement at the Melka Excelsior Hotel in North Bali. There, he spent years confined in the hotel’s shallow, heavily chlorinated swimming pool, exploited in a commercial dolphin-assisted therapy program for people with paralysis and other disabilities. Our rescue team transferred Dewa from the swimming pool to our facility on October 8, 2019. Since we introduced Dewa to natural sea water, his condition improved but he was still plagued with several health problems including chronic pneumonia., Dewa succumbed to his longstanding illness and took his last breath on March 11, 2020.

Remembering Gombloh

Gombloh was captured in the Java Sea and, sadly, did not survive his encounter with humans. Gombloh died at the Melka Excelsior Hotel in North Bali on August 3, 2019, just two days before our team was able to rescue Gombloh’s beloved companion Rambo. We are happy we arrived at the hotel in time to rescue Rambo, Rocky, Dewa, and Johnny from the shallow and heavily chlorinated swimming pools, but at the same time heartbroken that we got there too late to get Gombloh out of there. We will always remember Gombloh, who is one of countless dolphins to have fallen victim to consumers’ demand to watch dolphins perform and to swim with them.

The Umah Lumba Rehabilitation, Release and Retirement Center and Camp Lumba Lumba Readaptation and Release Center form an incredible partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia, BKSDA Bali, Dolphin Project, Jakarta Animal Aid Network, Karimunjawa National Park and the West Bali National Park. Together, we built Umah Lumba, the world’s only permanent dolphin rehabilitation, release and retirement facility for previously captive dolphins and Camp Lumba Lumba, the world’s first permanent facility dedicated to the readaptation and release of dolphins in Kemujan, Karimun Jawa. Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project has pioneered readaptation for captive dolphins and has released a number of dolphins into the wild.

Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and all donations are tax-deductible as authorized by law.

© 2021 Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project. All Rights Reserved.

171 Pier Ave. #234
Santa Monica, CA 90405


“Tiniest Baby Elephant Copies Everything His Mom Does” The Dodo Little But Fierce

50 exotic cats seized from Tiger King Park were relocated to Colorado


A young tiger relaxes in his open enclosures at the Wild Animal Sanctuary on April 1, 2020 in Kennesburg, Colorado. These tigers are among 45 animals the sanctuary rescued from Joe Exotic’s Greater Wynnewood Animal Park in Florida. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

The majority of the exotic animals seized this year by federal agents from a park made infamous by the “Tiger King” docu-series now reside in Colorado.

Pat Craig, executive director of the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, said that since January, his facility has taken in 50 animals from the Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Okla. That includes 10 tiger cubs with four mothers that were seized in January, and 36 adult lions, tigers and liligers — a hybrid lion and liger — that were seized this month.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary was already home to 39 tigers and three bears previously moved from Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, which was owned by Joseph Maldonado-Passage, a.k.a. Joe Exotic, who starred in Netflix’ “Tiger King.” The Colorado sanctuary was in charge of physically removing all of the animals seized in this most recent raid, including ones that went to other sanctuaries, Craig said.

Sixty-eight big cats total were seized in May, according to NPR.

RELATED: Where are the tigers from “Tiger King” now? Many of them live in Colorado, just 45 minutes from Denver.

Tiger King Park is owned by Jeff and Lauren Lowe, who were featured in the namesake documentary. Jeff Lowe was put in charge of Maldonado-Passage’s exotic animal park after the owner was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in a murder-for-hire plot. The park was eventually closed — under disputed circumstances, according to Men’s Health — and Lowe announced plans for a new one in Thackerville, near the border of Oklahoma and Texas.

According to NPR, the Justice Department sued the Lowes in November for allegedly violating the Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act. The couple is accused of exhibiting the animals without a license and failing to adequately care for them.

An affidavit said, “inspectors found that the animals were receiving a nutritionally deficient diet, inadequate and untimely veterinary care, and insufficient shelter from the weather” during welfare checks conducted since December of 2020, NPR reported.

Located on a 789-acre tract of land in Weld County, the Wild Animal Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization that began housing animals rescued from Maldonado-Passage’s Oklahoma compound as early as 2017. The company also operates the Wild Animal Refuge on more than 9,600 acres in Springfield, Colo. and a Wild Animal Sanctuary on 41 acres in Boyd, Texas.

The company currently cares for more than 650 lions, tigers, bears and wolves, according to its website.

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See the adorable friendship between a piglet and a bull calf rescued from a dairy farm

Marley the pig and Eli the calf running around a farm


Sometimes, the most unlikely connections turn out to be the best friendships one will ever come across.

That’s exactly what a piglet named Marley and her cow best friend Eli found in each other.

When Erika and Joseph, the couple who owns Sisu Refuge, learned about a piglet that had fallen from a factory farm truck, they immediately went to the local animal shelter she was brought into.YouTube

When they got there, they saw how badly injured she was. Poor Marley had bumps and bruises all over her tiny body, and she was also clearly traumatized. She couldn’t stop shaking and was terrified by her recent experience.

Even though they didn’t have space for her at the time, Erika and Joseph took Marley home to their sanctuary. Under their care and with the company of other animals, the pig slowly began to calm down. However, she still wouldn’t drink any milk.

A piglet being fed with milk via syringe

They kept trying to get her to drink, but Marley preferred to sleep most of the day away. Her foster parents were extremely worried, so they decided to try something else—a flavored sports drink.


Thankfully, it worked! Although Marley was picky, she began drinking the Gatorade. Erika and Joseph then mixed it with a milk replacer so the piglet will get all the nutrition she needed. By the 6th day, the piglet was starting to interact with the couple’s baby goats.

Even though letting her go was difficult, they knew Marley would be better off in a sanctuary with more space. So Erika and Joseph decided to let her go and sent her on a road trip to Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary.

Marley the pig and Eli the calf in the back seat of a car

That’s when Marley met her would-be best friend, the baby calf Eli.

Eli was also on his way to the sanctuary and had just been rescued. Jason Bolalek, who operates Destination Liberation Rescue, picked up Eli and was soon joined by Marley for the ride.YouTube

The animal was rescued from an organic dairy farm in Vermont. Since dairy farms had no use for males like Eli, most of their kind are sent to the slaughterhouse right after they’re born. A select few are raised a little longer to be turned into veal.

Erin Amerman, who founded Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary with her husband Chris in 2015, are both vegans, as is the rest of their family. They often hold public events to educate people about being kind to animals.

“It’s so sad to think he was on his way to the slaughterhouse,” Erin said of Eli.

Marley the pig and Eli the calf in a farm

During the pair’s journey to Gainesville, Florida, Marley and Eli got to bond and found comfort in each other. The two orphans became fast friends, and before long, the pair were cuddling in the back seat on the way to their new home.

When they got to Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary, they were greeted with open arms by the volunteers and were spoiled with love right away.

“When animals come to us, healthcare is obviously important, but love is what really helps them thrive,” said Erin.


Marley and Eli are thriving in their 45-acre home, especially now that they have a massive yard to explore and a variety of animal friends to play with.

Eli is a friendly calf who rubbed lovingly against everyone’s pants. He also loves head scratches.

On the other hand, Marley remained as picky as ever, especially when it comes to her milk. She only likes it warm and would tip her bowl over if the temperature isn’t right.

“She is very particular,” Erin said. “She’s kind of a diva.”

Nevertheless, everyone in the sanctuary loves her!

Click on the video below to see Marley and Eli’s sweet friendship.

If you would like to help these sanctuaries save more animal lives, you may visit their website to learn how you can contribute.

Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary | Sisu Refuge | Destination Liberation Rescue

Please share this story with your friends and family.


Advocating for True Sanctuary for Hercules and Leo

A close-up photograph of chimpanzee Hercules at Project Chimps. Credit: Crystal Alba

A close-up photograph of chimpanzee Hercules at Project Chimps. Credit: Crystal Alba

By Courtney Fern on March 22, 2021

Today is the first day of our week of action in recognition of the suffering our clients have endured as a result of their imprisonment and with the hope they will soon be able to live freely and with peace and dignity.

A close-up photograph of chimpanzee Leo at Project Chimps. Credit: Crystal Alba

A close-up photograph of chimpanzee Leo at Project Chimps. Credit: Crystal Alba

Yesterday, March 21st, was the third anniversary of Hercules and Leo’s transfer from the New Iberia Research Center to Project Chimps. Last year, whistleblowers brought to light well-documented information that showed Project Chimps and the Humane Society of the United States (Project Chimps’ primary funder) were not fulfilling their commitment to provide true sanctuary to Project Chimps’ chimpanzee residents, including the NhRP’s clients Hercules and Leo. The NhRP called on Project Chimps and HSUS to take whatever steps and devote whatever resources are necessary to immediately provide Hercules and Leo with daily access to an outdoor habitat. To our knowledge, Hercules and Leo still spend a majority of their time confined to their housing structure.

Actions of the Day:

  • Email Kitty Block, President and CEO of HSUS, and ask that Hercules and Leo are immediately provided with daily access to the outdoor habitat at Project Chimps. Kitty Block can be reached at kblock@humanesociety.org. A sample email: Dear Ms. Block, I am writing out of deep concern for Hercules and Leo, two chimpanzee residents of Project Chimps. Hercules and Leo suffered for years in a basement laboratory at Stony Brook University where they were subjected to invasive locomotion studies. Three years ago, Hercules and Leo were transferred to Project Chimps, which, at the time, claimed that they would spend the remainder of their lives at the sanctuary napping, foraging, and climbing pine trees. However, three years since their arrival at Project Chimps, their lives resemble nothing of what was promised. Hercules and Leo are confined to an indoor housing structure and an enclosed porch for all but a few hours a week. Outdoor access is integral to Hercules and Leo’s ability to exercise their autonomy and their physical and psychological health. Your organization took on the responsibility to provide lifetime care to Hercules and Leo and it is HSUS’ duty to provide them with true sanctuary, which includes the freedom to choose how to spend their days. I am deeply troubled that an organization with as ample resources as HSUS has not allocated funds to either expand the existing habitat at Project Chimps or build out a new one. Please take all steps necessary to immediately provide Hercules and Leo with daily access to an outdoor habitat. Sincerely,
    [Your name]
  • Tweet at HSUS and Project Chimps asking that they do whatever necessary to provide Hercules and Leo with daily access to the outdoor habitat. A sample tweet is: “The @HumaneSociety and @ProjectChimps have deprived Hercules and Leo of true sanctuary for the past 3 years, confining them to housing structures for all but a few hours every week. This is unacceptable. Please immediately provide them with daily access to the outdoor habitat.” If you do not have Twitter or prefer to advocate on another social media platform, you can still help by sharing this blog post.

Thank you! Courtney Fern is the NhRP’s Director of Government Relations and Campaigns.

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Rest in Peace Milo

Sanctuaries for Dolphins

To a better life

Petition: Ranoo the bear is suffering to death at this zoo. Demand she be sent to a sanctuary!

40,913 SUPPORTERS 45,000 GOAL Celebrities in Pakistan are sounding the alarm about a desolate bear, imprisoned in a zoo where she is in desperate need of immediate care. Otherwise, animal lovers fear she may die.

Tell authorities in Pakistan to follow their citizens’ demands and release this poor, suffering bear to an appropriate sanctuary now!

A video has started circulating online exposing the horrible reality for a female bear named Ranoo, who is kept captive in the subpar facilities of the Karachi Zoo in Karachi, Pakistan. In the video, the bear is shown panting in the immense, scorching heat, surrounded by a sparse environment offering little in the way of shade or relief.

Zoogoers observed that the bear appears both extremely hungry and thirsty, with no food or water in sight. Her fur appears extremely matted and ragged, while her nails are overgrown, suggesting serious negligence. Experts say that the poor, imprisoned animal is not even being treated with proper medical care.

Meanwhile, Ranoo is also struggling with the pain of having been separated from her family. While the rest of her bear community is back in the Pakistani city of Skardu, she was torn away in order to entertain paying guests at the Karachi Zoo’s shameful facilities. Now, she lives her whole life under lock and key, in a small and barren enclosure, all on her own. In fact, she is the only bear living at the zoo. Even Murtaza Wahab Siddiqui, an advisor on Law and Environment to the Chief Minister of Sindh, admitted that “there may be issues of loneliness since she is the only bear…”

Despite her horrible condition, officials in the country do not appear to be concerned. In response to the uproar from multiple celebrities as well as citizens throughout Pakistan, Murtaza Wahab Siddiqui tried to reassure the public that all was well. He claimed the poor, mangy animal was “in stable health condition” and was “being looked after.”

This is clearly not the case. Even worse, authorities in Pakistan already have not been taking negligence and animal abuse at zoos seriously. Several months ago, in July 2020, a fire that broke out at Islamabad Zoo — combined with staff members’ inaction — caused two lions to actually burn to death.

As actor Ushna Shah wrote to her fans on Instagram: “Do not support zoos or marine animal shows and please educate your family and friends against them. Make them understand that such exhibits are cruel.” We wholeheartedly agree.

We can’t trust anything the authorities say when it comes to this poor bear’s health. The only thing we can do is demand that she be released to a sanctuary — along with her whole family — to spend the rest of her days in peace.

Sign the petition to demand that Ranoo the bear be reunited with her family, and that the whole bear group is sent to a reputable sanctuary!EMBED


Britain’s oldest polar bear dies aged 22 at Yorkshire Wildlife Park


By Joseph Laws For Mailonline 16:55 22 Aug 2020, updated 17:13 22 Aug 2020

  • Oldest polar bear in Britain dies aged 22 after suddenly falling ill in wildlife park
  • He had terminal kidney failure and after he suddenly fell ill vets put him to sleep 
  • Victor was rehomed in Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster in 2014

Britain’s oldest polar bear has died aged 22 after falling ill on Friday.

The animal, named Victor, was living at Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster after being moved from various zoos in Europe. 

He had terminal kidney failure and after he suddenly fell ill, vets put him to sleep. The animal, named Victor, was living at Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster after being moved from various zoos in Europe

Victor was born at Rostock Zoo in Germany, before moving to Rhenen in the Netherlands. 

After he retired from the European breeding programme, he was rehomed in Yorkshire in 2014. He fathered 13 cubs during his time in the breeding programme.

The directors of the park thanked the team of vets from Portland House Veterinary Group who responded so quickly and the ‘dedicated’ team who had ‘loved and cared’ for the bear since his arrival.

Yorkshire Wildlife Park said: ‘Victor was a great ambassador for his species, inspiring generations and drawing attention to the plight of his species in the wild and the threat of climate change. He will be greatly missed by everyone.’ The animal, named Victor, was living at Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster after being moved from various zoos in Europe


Two beluga whales complete journey from captivity in China to care sanctuary in Iceland


Nevertheless, a pair of belugas, named Little Grey and Little White, are enjoying their first taste of the sea since 2011, thanks to a leviathan relocation project that has been years in the making.

After being captured at a very young age off the coast of Russiaand spending years in a Chinese aquarium, the whales are about to get used to the freedom of an 8-acre sanctuary at Klettsvik Bay in Iceland.

“It’s been quite the journey for these two,” Audrey Padgett, the Beluga Whale Sanctuary’s general manager, told CNN on a video call in front of the belugas. “It hasn’t been easy, but it’s definitely been a labor of love.”

Back in 2011, Little Grey and Little White were moved from a Russian research facility to the Changfeng Ocean World aquarium in Shanghai. The following year, the aquarium was bought by Merlin Entertainments, a company opposed to keeping whales and dolphins in captivity.
And so the idea of taking the whales back to the sea was born.

The belugas’ new home, run by the Sea Life Trust charity, is a much “larger, natural environment” with lots of potential benefits, Padgett said.

More than 300 belugas are in captivity around the world, she told CNN.

“Some belugas are in cramped and unsuitable conditions,” she added. “And if what we can learn here from Little White and Little Grey can help improve welfare for other animals … that’s really the point.”

Although Padgett wasn’t involved in the logistics of transporting the whales from China, she stressed that moving two belugas was no easy task.

They each weigh a little more than a ton and consume around 110 pounds of fish per day between them.

The operation involved specially designed equipment, veterinarians and a whole lot of water and ice to keep them hosed down, Padgett said.

The belugas had bespoke “stretchers” or slings to move them overland, and the team did “practice runs” to get them used to being moved via trucks, tugboats and cranes, according to Padgett.

“If you’re trying to take your cat or your dog somewhere, you want them to have a positive association with travel … We had to make the belugas a comfortable as possible,” Padgett continued.

After their arrival in Iceland, the whales were kept in a care facility with a quarantine pool for several months,to allow them to adjust to the colder Icelandic environment.

And though the final leg of the journeyfrom the care facility to the sanctuary was a shorter one, the Covid-19 pandemic complicated it significantly.

“We’re already in a pretty remote location here in Iceland. It affected our ability to get experts here to help us with the move. It affected our ability to get supplies and just the length of time it took to do things,” Padgett told CNN.

“We also needed to protect our staff and put them into quarantine, because we need our people to take care of our animals.”

Little Grey and Little White’s odyssey isn’t quite over. They are currently in an “acclimatization space” within the sanctuarythat will allow them to adjust safely to their new home.

Padgett says, however, that they will have free rein of the sanctuary any day now.

Little Grey and Little White will be assessed around the clockas they get used to being back in the ocean environment.

And while the whales benefit from more space to explore and new kinds of seaweed, kelp and fish to enjoy, the whole operation also helps humans understand belugas better, Padgett explains.

“It’s kind of the finish line for these two,” she said, “but it’s a new chapter for belugas around the world.”

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Published on the 18th of June, 2020

Ndugu was a majestic bull who called the Kibwezi Forest home. His name means “brother” in Swahili — and the Keepers dubbed him such, as he had become like a big brother to our Umani Springs herd. The friendship was not immediate. At first, he observed the group from a distance, nothing more than a hulking shadow in the dense undergrowth. As he grew more comfortable in their presence, he moved out into the open glades where they enjoyed the salt licks and mud baths. His appearances caused much excitement among our babies, and eventually they mustered up the courage to walk right up to him.

In the course of their daily adventures, our orphans encounter many wild elephants in the Kibwezi Forest. Many friendships have been forged from these interactions, but Ndugu has a special place in our hearts. He was truly a friend to all of us, with his comforting presence and his gentle demeanor. Ndugu never hassled the Keepers or gave them any cause for alarm; it was as if he understood the pivotal role they play in this unusual herd.

Ndugu was not a perennial visitor. As is typical of bulls, who act as the scouts of elephant society, he would remain in the forest for a few months at a time before journeying on. The Keepers and orphans were delighted whenever he made his regular pilgrimage back to Umani Springs, growing more friendly with each passing year. The feeling was clearly mutual: Ndugu would often accompany the herd back to their stockades and see them off for the night. It wasn’t unusual for him to then remain in the vicinity, sometimes even sleeping outside the compound. When four of our orphans started spending nights away from the stockades and out in the forest, Ndugu frequently served as their chaperone. We can’t imagine how reassuring it must have been for the orphans to have their older friend by their sides.

The Umani Springs herd enjoyed Ndugu’s company throughout April and into May, before he disappeared once more. After an absence of three weeks, our Keepers were shocked to find him standing by the mud bath, clearly in distress. Upon closer inspection, they realised he was suffering from a seriously infected injury. They immediately alerted the SWT/KWS Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit, and Dr. Poghon was able to walk right up to him to dart him with anaesthetic. It appeared that he had been wounded during a fight with another bull. His right ear bore a hole the diameter of a tusk, along with a deep puncture between his scapula and another injury on his left shoulder. After cleaning and massive doses of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories administered, he managed to get back to his feet, but Dr. Poghon gave him a guarded prognosis given how severe and infected his injuries were.

We continued to keep a close eye on our friend. He remained in the area, limping heavily between the forest and the glade. After dousing his wounds with mud, he would lie on the ground or give himself a gentle mud bath, which seemed to alleviate his pain. Ndugu was there when Luggard and Enkesha graduated to Umani Springs. He watched the proceedings closely, showing visible interest in the new arrivals, but it was clear he was not doing well and we could smell the sepsis setting in. Still, he remained a regal presence, standing like a statue in the mud bath and splashing water on his shoulders. Shukuru, who knows something of overcoming great physical difficulties, was clearly concerned about her friend and ventured up to his side to check on him.

She wasn’t the only one. Frustratingly and tragically, there was nothing more we could do for him at this early stage. M99, which is used to anaesthetise elephants, has a revival drug. While that remains in the bloodstream, anaesthetic can’t be used again for some time, as the revival then becomes ineffective and the elephant will never wake up. A minimum of two weeks must pass before we can even consider a follow-up treatment. As dawn broke the next day, Ndugu was still standing in the mud bath, and shortly thereafter he lay down. Hearts sinking, our team rushed to his side. It appeared he no longer had the strength to rise, so we mobilised vehicles to try to help him back on his feet. That was not to be, for just then, he took his last breath and passed away before their eyes.

Ndugu’s death affected everyone deeply. It is difficult to reconcile why such a magnificent friend should meet such a senseless end. We took him deep into the forest to his final resting place away from where the orphans frequent. It is a peaceful place, situated among the leafy trees that Ndugu loved so much.

We are glad that our orphans did not witness Ndugu’s passing. Many members of our Umani Springs herd lost their mothers before their very eyes, and we fear that seeing their friend’s lifeless form would have evoked traumatic memories. They may never know where his last safari took him or why he never returned, but they can imagine him spirited away, off on a grand adventure. Given how intuitive elephants are, however, it is likely that they realised how much he was suffering and, deep down, understand his fate.

Although we only knew Ndugu for a few years, he made an indelible impact. His life was cut short, but there is no doubt that it was a life well-lived. He was an elephant full of curiosity and empathy, an elephant who opened his heart to our unique Umani Springs herd and gave so much of himself to them.

Rest in peace, beautiful brother. You are and will always be deeply missed, but may your giant spirit watch over the beautiful Kibwezi Forest.