October 29, 2009
PETA protests Oregon wildlife park's car-washing elephants
The car-washing elephants at an Oregon wildlife park don't really get your car very clean -- but that's not the reason PETA wants the park to stop using them.
Wildlife Safari's website jokes that the spring and summer attraction, at which the park's African elephants "wash" the cars of visitors under the supervision of trainers, is "guaranteed not to get your car clean!"
The animal rights group wrote a letter Oct. 22 that called the elephant carwash "a gimmick that does nothing to foster respect for endangered species," according to the Associated Press. The group is particularly concerned with the elephant training tool known as a bullhook, or ankus, which is a metal rod with a hook at one end.
In an interview with Roseburg's News-Review newspaper, the park's general curator, Dan Brands, said the trainers use the bullhooks only as guides. And the car washing, he says, is a modification of a behavior the elephants do naturally and have been trained to do using positive reinforcement with carrots or yams.
"These are 2-ton animals," Brands said. "You can't force them to do anything they wouldn't want to do."
Wildlife Safari is a nonprofit zoological park in Winston, Ore., and is accredited by the Assn. of Zoos and Aquariums. The association requires zoos to meet high standards for animal management and care, including enrichment, so that the natural behavior of the animals is stimulated with variety in their daily routine.