Easy targets: Did HSUS expose zoo links to canned hunts or just play to the grandstand?

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1994:

WASHINGTON D.C.–Announcing that a three-year probe “has implicated the nation’s best-known zoos as suppliers of exotic animals to hunting ranches,” the Humane Society of the U.S. has made recent headlines across the country–but the facts fall short of the sensational charges.

HSUS alleged that 24 zoos had sold animals to so-called canned hunts. Of the 24, however, seven had already terminated links to canned hunts that were disclosed years ago by other investigators. The allegations against another 10 zoos remain unsubstantiated more than two months after they were named by the periodical HSUS Reports, despite HSUS investigator Richard Farinato’s August 24 promise to ANIMAL PEOPLE that details would be forthcoming. Several of the zoos deny making such sales; one of them, the Knoxville Zoo, had cancelled such a sale before it was completed.
Of the seven zoos that were implicated in substantiated sales to canned hunts, only two, the San Francisco Zoo and Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida, were involved in either multiple transactions or the sale of more than four animals. Only a handful of sales occurred within the past two years. Only the Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Illinois, acknowledged awareness of having sold an animal who might be hunted.

The HSUS allegations were amplified by an August 19 U.S. Newswire statement, timed to boost the August 20 introduction of H.R. 4497, the “Captive Exotic Animal Protection Act of 1994,” by Rep. George Brown (D-California) and 15 co-sponsors. Adapted from the “Canned Hunt Prohibition Law of 1992,” which died in the last Congress, the bill would ban interstate and international traffic in exotic wildlife to stock hunting ranches–many of which are essentially shooting pens. The bill has virtually no chance of passage this late in the current Congress, which will close in mid-October, and the principal author, Rep. Don Edwards (D-California) is retiring at the close of the session.”As enablers of the canned hunting industry,” charged HSUS vice president for governmental affairs Wayne Pacelle, “the zoos are as guilty as the hunters who pay to pull the trigger.”

Returned American Zoo and Aquarium Association executive director Sydney Butler, “Mr. Pacelle knows full well that the AZA is vehemently opposed to canned hunts and holds any violations of its policy as a direct ethics code violation, which can result in the loss of accreditation and membership.” Butler said AZA would study H.R. 4497 before issuing a position on it, but indicated that he saw no reason to oppose it.

Ethics

As of mid-September, AZA spokesperson Jane Ballentine told ANIMAL PEOPLE, “HSUS has not written to our Ethics Board requesting an investigation into their allegations. Many reporters have wondered why, since they are making such a huge deal out of this issue. We can’t help but have our own internal theories.”

Farinato and HSUS vice president John Grandy informed ANIMAL PEOPLE editor Merritt Clifton in April at the White Oak Conference on Zoos and Animal Protection that they were preparing an anti-zoo offensive for this fall–regardless of developments at the conference, which brought together a select group of leaders in the captive wildlife and animal protection communities. After the first day of the conference found most participants in agreement on major
issues, Grandy and Farinato privately urged Clifton to “lead the attack” the next day, claiming that for political reasons they and Pacelle had to “maintain cover” until fall. Clifton responded that his role was to report the news, not to make it, and that the HSUS strategy showed bad faith–especially after the AZA had repeatedly strengthened its ethics code prohibition on selling animals to canned hunts, over the objections of some highly influential members.

HSUS pledged to fight canned hunts as far back as April 25, 1973, when then-HSUS zoological representative Sue Pressman wrote to longtime Kansas humane activist Mona Lefebvre that the organization was engaged in “major investigative” work on the subject, with the goal of getting “some laws” passed. Pressman, still outspokenly critical of canned hunts, long since left HSUS, and now heads the Association of Sanctuaries. HSUS meanwhile produced neither major revelations nor legislation for more than 20 years, and in fact was conspicuously absent on November 19, 1991, when Congressional Friends of Animals hosted a briefing on canned hunts for fellow members of Congress. Participants included representatives from AZA (then known as the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums), Friends of Animals, American SPCA president Roger Caras, and Fund for Animals president Cleveland Amory.

In the interim the then-growing commerce between zoos and canned hunts came to light through the work of investigative reporters including Clifton, who published frequent exposes of the traffic in both U.S. and Canadian media between 1981 and 1991. AAZPA responded with increasingly strict guidelines discouraging such transactions, and in 1990 backed words with deeds by stripping Arkansas wildlife broker Earl Tatum of his accreditation, for officially undisclosed reasons, just after CBS 60 Minutes revealed that Tatum and another dealer, James Fouts, of Kansas, had sold animals from the San Diego Zoo and the Oklahoma City Zoo at auctions frequented by canned hunt proprietors. Fouts, fined $2,500 by the USDA in 1985 for illegally importing a parrot, was never accredited by AAZPA. Informed of the dealers’ canned hunt link by 60 Minutes, both zoos severed relations with Tatum and Fouts in November
1989–two months before the 60 Minutes segment aired.

Already embarrassed, the San Diego Zoo was hit again on the eve of the September 1991 AAZPA annual meeting–held in San Diego–when former San Diego Zoo elephant handler Lisa Landres, working for FoA, disclosed a 1985 deal that sent 22 animals directly to a canned hunt in Oregon. FoA also revealed several one-and-two-animal transactions between the San Diego Zoo and other alleged canned hunt suppliers–Jergen Schultz, co-owner of the
Catskill Game Farm, just south of Albany, New York, and Arizona auction dealer Pat Hoctor. Hoctor also publishes Exotic Animal News, a periodical advertising the availability of animals to an audience including canned hunt proprietors. The Oregon canned hunt was already defunct, and the San Diego Zoo no longer had any
relationship with Hoctor. It immediately ceased dealings with the Catskill Game Farm, to which it had often sold animals since 1952.

Zoos crack down

The September 1991 AAZPA meeting also came just three weeks after publication of a widely distributed and quoted Clifton expose of canned hunts and the zoo connection, crediting AAZPA for progress against canned hunts, but noting the ambivalent relationship between leading AAZPA members and major hunting ranches, several of which belong to AAZPA Species Survival Plans. Jacksonville Zoo director Dale Tuttle, a key figure in both AAZPA and SSP administration, defends hunting ranches as a way to make species conservation pay for itself.

Finally, however, the balance tipped against Tuttle. “AAZPA strongly opposes disposal of exotic wildlife to individuals
solely for the purpose of shooting,” the group resolved. “Specimens should not be sold, traded, or otherwise transferred to any organization or individual for the purpose of sport, trophy, or any other form of hunting. Such action constitutes a violation of the AAZPA Code of Professional Ethics.”

The San Diego Zoo adopted a similar policy, strengthening a 1976 ban on selling animals to nonaccredited facilities. Since November 1991 the San Diego Zoo has required every private purchaser to sign a contract stipulating that the animals will not be hunted, and that if a ranch begins to allow hunting, as the Dale Priour ranch in Texas did after obtaining two animals from the San Diego Zoo, it must return the former zoo animals and their offspring.

Further, president Douglas Myers pledged, “We will compile a list of known hunting ranches to serve as a red flag guide, giving names and addresses for us to avoid when searching for proper places to send zoo animals. We will check regularly to find out who has applied for federal permits to cull protected species. We will cross-reference that list with the list of private facilities receiving zoo animals. This will provide a starting point for double-checking on who is allowing hunts and who will not be sent zoo animals.”

Only once since 1991 has a former San Diego Zoo animal turned up at a canned hunt–a European boar acquired by Robert Naud of Brigham, Quebec. According to San Diego Zoo public relations director Jeff Jouett, the boar “was sent to a man named Ed Novak, of Cairo, New York. The animal next was sold to Mark Smith at Bradwood Farms in Reddick, Florida. Bradwood Farms evidently went through a bankruptcy/foreclosure proceeding. That’s where Naud picked up the boar, to the best of our knowledge. All of these transactions occurred prior to November 1991. Each person involved–Novak, Smith, and Naud–was promptly notified of our disgust and distress, and all business dealings with each were immediately ended. We also notified AAZPA of our findings so that other zoos may be aware of the names and reputations of the people involved.”

The 1991 AAZPA and San Diego Zoo actions severed the zoo traffic to canned hunts, for the most part, though many more older deals were disclosed during the next year by FoA, the Houston Chronicle, and the activist group Voice for Animals, based in San Antonio, Texas. Most compromised, then and now, was the San Antonio Zoo, whose board of directors, Voice for Animals reported, includes alleged hunting ranch owners David Bamberger, Rugeley Ferguson, Mrs. Jack Guenther, Buddy Jordan, Betty (Mrs. Robert) Kelso, Leon Kopecky, Red McCombs, Scott Petty Jr., and Louis Stumberg.

McCombs, VfA charged, lent his address to alleged seller of zoo animals to canned hunts Larry Johnson. Jordan, whose name resurfaced in the HSUS investigation, now denies involvement with canned hunts, but boasted in a 1989
interview with the San Francisco television news station KPIX that he made “big money” selling animals to such hunts, and was named as a supplier to canned hunts by the Houston Chronicle in 1992. He also admitted recently to Tampa Tribune reporter Nanette Woitas that while he does not sell the animals he breeds from former zoo stock
“direct to a hunting range,” he doesn’t necessarily know where they all end up. In February 1992 Jordan reportedly sold $40,000 worth of animals to the Triple 7 ranch–a canned hunt where as many as 2,500 exotic animals are killed each year.
Kelso is wife of Robert Kelso, whose Auerhahn Ranch purportedly hosts guest hunters from Safari Club International;
bought 40 hooved exotic animals from the San Antonio Zoo between 1985 and 1991; and in 1992 was discovered by the Houston Chronicle to have purchased animals from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the National Zoo, and the Philadelphia Zoo. All three zoos demanded the return of the animals upon learning of Kelso’s involvement in hunting, but seven antelope obtained from Cheyenne were already dead, four of them supposedly from causes other than hunting. The Bamberger link is most problematic for AZA. On the one hand, Bamberger runs one of the biggest and best-known hunting ranches in the U.S.; on the other, he belongs to the SSP for the Arabian oryx, managed by Tuttle.

In March 1992 the AAZPA board moved to further strengthen the anti-hunting guideline. According to an internal discussion paper summarizing the debate that ensued throughout the next year, “The word solely” rendered the September 1991 statement “meaningless as a guideline for professional behavior,” because some zoos were¬† claiming they sold animals to canned hunts “for money, not solely for shooting,” or “well, mostly for game viewing,” or “for
breeding, not solely for shooting.”

In May 1993, the board adopted the present ethical statement, affirming that it, “strongly opposes the sale, trade,
or transfer of animals from zoos and aquariums to organizations or individuals which allow the hunting of animals directly from or bred at zoos and aquariums.”
Achieving passage of the statement, the discussion paper indicates, required overcoming three categories of resistance. First, it noted, both zoos and the public must realize that, “The unpredictability of sex ratio, fecundity or the behavioral adequacy of prospective animal offspring means that significant surplus will be produced in any zoo or aquarium not being managed for extinction,” at least at the current level of reproductive science.

Second, the paper explained, zookeepers often suffer from the same illusions about a mythical animal-heaven on a farm somewhere that afflicts the general public: “Zoos that have sent surplus animals to a place where they might be hunted have usually done so to afford them a longer lifespan and, perhaps, the chance to reproduce. Payment for such surplus is helpful to the maintenance of long-term endangered species propagation programs–but it also encourages the false belief that zoos and aquariums create unnecessary surplus to make money. Usually unexpressed, but perhaps most important,” the paper added, “it is both difficult and disheartening for zoo and aquarium biologists who spend their lives caring for animals to have to destroy them. No matter how humane, culling has seemed an extremely poor alternative in view of the fancied benefits of disposal to a ranch.”

The paper pointed out that the reality of hunting ranches is often “the badly aimed wounding of tame animals lured by feeding bells and buckets of corn–or even the shooting of big cats in cages. AAZPA members have observed,” it added, “that few such hunting organizations can provide those who send them animals any assurance of professional animal management or humane animal care.”

Finally, the paper noted, “Only six or seven ranches currently sustain SSP animals or participate in endangered species programs. Nevertheless, the potential of their vast acreages to extend zoo efforts for vanishing ungulates must not be overlooked…Some of these ranches may permit hunting of surplus exotic ungulates as well as deer, turkeys, and other native species.”

As a concession to the Tuttle faction, the AZA ethics code accordingly “does not apply to those individuals or organizations which allow hunting of indigenous game species (but not from zoo and aquarium stocks) and established exotic species such as (but not limited to) whitetailed deer, quail, rabbits, geese, and such long-introduced species as boar, ring-necked pheasant, chukar, trout, etc.”

The Catskill Game Farm

Since the current code was adopted, only four zoos on the HSUS list–the San Francisco Zoo, Busch Gardens, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, New York–are alleged to have sold animals who may have gone to canned hunts. Of these, all but Busch Gardens sold the animals to the Catskill Game Farm.
“Catskill assured me none of our animals were sold to canned hunts,” said Seneca Park Zoo director Dan Michalowski, who quit dealing with Catskill anyway and said legal action could follow if the animals had gone to hunting ranches, inasmuch as Catskill had signed an agreement that neither the animals in question nor their offspring would ever be hunted. New York state Department of Environmental Conservation records show that of the three Seneca Park Zoo animals sold to Catskill since 1992, a 13-year-old lion was euthanized due to injuries received in a fight with another lion, a male ringtailed lemur drowned, and a female ringtailed lemur remains at Catskill.

Catskill co-owner Kathie Schulz, whose father founded the facility in 1933, said she was unaware of having sold any animals to canned hunts, despite repeated allegations of having done so, and added that HSUS will hear from her lawyer. But she later admitted that a related firm run by her husband Jurgen Schulz sells animals “to whatever the needs are of the public.”

The San Francisco Zoo also sold two nyalas to Buddy Jordan.By far the most serious HSUS allegations–other than the well-known situation involving the San Antonio Zoo–pertained to Busch Gardens, which sold animals to both Buddy Jordan and Earl Tatum, nearly four years after the latter lost his AZA accreditation. Jordan apparently bought 87 animals from Busch between 1990 and 1992. Tatum may have acquired hundreds of Busch animals over the past two decades. Both Jordan and Tatum signed the AZA’s standard agreement that animals obtained from Busch would not
be sold at auctions or be hunted, but Arkansas state veterinary records indicate that Tatum did in fact sell at least one kudu bought from Busch in 1992 to Texas hunting ranch owner Jack Moore.

As many as 4,000 hunting ranches operate in the U.S., of which about three-fourths specialize in captive bird-shooting. Of the rest, most either breed the animals killed on their premises themselves or buy animals through an extensive and fast-growing network of private breeders and exotic wildlife auctions. The foundation stock for this network did mostly come from zoos, but mostly prior to the formation of the AZA, which from its inception has worked to halt the release of animals from accredited zoos to unaccredited facilities and to promote longterm coordinated breeding strategies to reduce the numbers of surplus animals.