What is ABES?
The All Bull Elephants’ School of Sanctuary (ABES) is a project of The Kerulos Center (www.kerulos.org) whose central goal is to model ways of living that embody a new understanding of life, what we call ‘being sanctuary.’ ABES has two main objectives:
- Establishing a healing refuge and lifetime care for captive-held male Elephants suffering psychological and physical trauma in North American zoos and circuses; and,
- Creating an education nexus designed to galvanize a way of living dedicated to trans-species peace, wellness, and sustainability.
How did ABES get started?
In 2016, Kiersten Cluster, who is now a Kerulos Board member re-ignited the campaign to free Billy, a male Malaysian Elephant who has lived in isolation at the L.A. Zoo for almost thirty years. At the time, no sanctuary offered to take Billy if released. For this reason, and the dream of Cari Zuckerman, who is now our Elephant Sanctuary Coordinator, The Kerulos Center decided to establish ABES so that Billy and other male Elephants who are underserved because they are misunderstood would have the opportunity of sanctuary. Given that Kerulos came into existence as a result of Director Gay Bradshaw’s research discovery of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) of young male Elephants, ABES reflects a natural evolution.
Why does ABES include a 'School'?
The ABES name reflects an expanded view of sanctuary. First, Elephants’ denotes that it is the Animals who shape our direction and practices. School of Sanctuary describes ABES’ role as a dynamic center where humans learn how to thrive in ways that support Animal self-determination and wellness. Elephants and other wildlife cannot thrive unless human can change.
What is The Kerulos Center?
The Kerulos Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization established in 2008. Our vision is to Create a world where all Animals live in dignity and freedom. We translate this vision into practice by helping animals in need through research, education, and sanctuary. ABES is the first sanctuary in the United States to focus on male Elephants.
Is ABES a 501(c)(3) non-profit?
No. ABES is a project of The Kerulos Center which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization established in 2008. All donations to ABES go through The Kerulos Center and are tax deductible.
What is the Kerulos and ABES philosophy?
A foundational element of our work is the Elephant Liberation Program which is dedicated to reinstating the freedom and self-determination of Elephants around the world. In recognition of their common suffering and challenges, the projects in our Elephant Liberation Program seek to aid both free-living and captive-held Elephants.
ABES is grounded in The 10 Principles of Being Sanctuary developed by The Kerulos Center. These principles draw from the fields of trans-species psychology and trauma recovery which recognize that all animals possess capacities to think, feel, and experience consciousness as humans do. The 10 Principles of Being Sanctuary are: Knowing, Safety, Assurance, Belonging, Parity, Being Heard, Self-Determination, Support, and Trust. This view demands a conscious, self-aware commitment to transform from a culture of predation and privilege to one of trans-species care and connection. Being sanctuary is an unhindered embrace of all life.
Why only Bull Elephants?
All zoo and circus Elephants suffer immensely, both emotionally and physically, and are in dire need of sanctuary. Currently there are two Elephant sanctuaries in the United States and one takes only females. There are at least 97 male Elephants (Bulls) held captive in North American zoos and circuses, being exploited for human entertainment and profit, and most of them live alone. There is less sanctuary space for these Bulls, thus they have less chance to be saved. Bulls are also misunderstood and are often isolated, chained, and punished in captivity. ABES is a response to the plight of these captive Bull Elephants and the desperate need for more sanctuary space. In addition, ABES will welcome animals rescued from the food production industry and provide a dedicated preserve for native wildlife.
Do Elephants get PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a formal diagnosis to describe a specific set of symptoms characteristic of psychological trauma. Research has established that Elephants possess cognitive, psychological, and emotional capacities very similar to our own. These capacities include a vulnerability to psychological trauma.
Imagine being torn from your loving family and the only home you have ever known, sold into slavery, and transported thousands of miles to a strange city in another part of the world, and all while you are still a young child. When you arrive, you are confined, subjected to abuse and violence, and isolated. For years. And years.
This is a common scenario for Elephants who are captured, then are held captive by the zoo and circus industries. People are often told that Elephant bobbing and swaying are a kind of dancing and reflect happiness or excitement. However, these stereotypies and other symptoms common to zoo and circus Elephants including infanticide and self-harming are actually indicative of severe trauma and distress.
These symptoms can continue in sanctuary. Sanctuary is still captivity and the tracks of trauma can remain deeply etched in mind, brain, and body. PTSD is a natural response to unnatural conditions. Its symptoms are how Elephants and other Animals are desperately trying to cope with the terrible hardship, losses, and deprivations they endure in zoos and circuses. ABES’ goal is to support Elephants as they move from their traumatic past to heal. To learn more, please visit our web page, Elephant PTSD and Cultural Recovery.
Where will ABES be located?
ABES will be located in the lower Piedmont, Georgia, US. This decision was made after extensive research and consultations with diverse experts to optimize topographic, vegetation, and climatic conditions most suitable for Elephants outside their countries of origin. The Kerulos Center is currently raising the money to purchase land so we can begin to bring Elephants to sanctuary as soon as possible.
Why can’t captive-held Elephants return to their native wild?
There are a few successful examples of Elephants being rehabilitated and returned to the wild (see, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust at www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/index.asp). Unfortunately, the best choice in nearly all instances for Elephants held in North American zoos and circuses, is sanctuary. Exposure to disease, physical and psychological trauma, myriad health issues, and the lack of socialization have made it impossible for these Elephants to return to their natural habitats. Further, they would not be able to rejoin their families. However, if future research makes it possible for an ABES resident to return to his rightful home and that is determined to be in the best interests of the individual Elephant, ABES will work to make that happen.
What is the difference between ABES and a zoo?
Although still captivity, the philosophical and physical differences between a zoo and a true sanctuary are evident. In ABES, as our name reflects (Elephants’) the focus is on the residents and their needs, instead of on profits. Resident Elephants will have space, privacy, healing, companionship, quiet, and self-determination. Moreover, residents will be free from the stress and noise of being on public display, which is frequently in the middle of large cities. Most importantly, ABES will advocate for the end of captivity for all species in the hope that, one day, sanctuary for captive-held wild animals will no longer be necessary. In contrast, zoos focus on “building up the North American herd,” breeding programs which merely perpetuate the suffering and horror of captivity. To learn more, please visit our ABES web page.
Aren’t zoos necessary for the conservation of endangered species like Elephants?
There is no evidence that zoos plan to breed captive Elephants for the purpose of reintegrating them into wild herds. On the contrary, zoos in North America are very clear that they plan to increase the captive herd and hold those Elephants in woefully inadequate conditions for their physical size and cognitive and social-emotional needs. Moreover, the zoo industry continues to deplete the remaining number of wild Elephants as evidenced by the recent abduction of 18 wild Elephants out of Swaziland that were sold to three zoos in North America. It is our position that the small contribution zoos may make to conservation efforts through education and/or monetary donations are not worth the cost to the individuals held in captivity. Education can be achieved through other means, especially in this age of virtual reality and CGI, with a portion of profits designated to support conservation efforts around the world.
ABES fully supports the conservation of natural habitats and endangered species, and will work towards those goals through research, educational outreach, and partnership with such organizations as the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Elephant Aid International.
Will ABES be open to the public?
No. The Elephants will not be on public display. ABES is dedicated to serving the needs of its resident Elephants who are there out of need for privacy and care, not to be exhibited. These needs include being free from the stress and noise of public display and contact with strangers.
Can I visit ABES?
Yes. ABES School of Sanctuary welcomes you! In addition to various classes, workshops, and conferences that we will offer, interactive classes with Animals rescued from the food production industry will be available and there will be volunteer opportunities.
Why are some sanctuaries open to the public?
The main reason is to make a profit. At ABES we serve the Animals, not the other way around. Unfortunately, any organization can call itself a sanctuary. Some sanctuaries are open to the public in a genuine attempt to fund the care of its residents. Other sanctuaries are money-making zoos in disguise.
Does the sanctuary engage in captive breeding?
No. ABES does not breed more captives.
Are the residents forced to perform and/or participate in training or husbandry demonstrations?
No. ABES will never coerce or force residents to participate in any activity. Even when an Elephant may need medical care, he will always be asked, never told or ordered. ABES is committed to fully supporting Animal agency and self-determination to the extent possible.
Are the residents on a human imposed schedule?
No. ABES operates on “Elephant time” and is dedicated to Animal self-determination over and above human scheduling needs.
Will residents be provided with an environment similar to their native habitat?
ABES provides a healing environment that mirrors home and family to the greatest extent possible.
Will there be species other than Elephants at ABES?
In addition to Bull Elephants, ABES welcomes Animals rescued from the food production industry and provides a dedicated preserve for native wildlife.
How can I get involved?
There are many ways. You can help raise money for ABES through direct donations, or organizing a fundraising event. You can also volunteer, share information about Elephant Liberation, or enroll in one of our Internships. Our curriculum is grounded in principles of being sanctuary which combine science, somatic, and contemplative studies. Education programs are designed for those seeking to work in the field of Animal trauma recovery (rescue and sanctuary) and others—families, at-risk youth, health and policy professionals—seeking support and guidance for becoming sanctuary.
To make a donation, please visit the ABES donation page.
Is my donation tax deductible?
Yes. All donations made to The Kerulos Center are tax deductible. Donors will receive documentation of the donation for tax purposes.
How can I learn more?
For more information please visit the ABES web page.