Elephant Sanctuary to get last Cuneo eles
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2005:
CHICAGO–The Elephant Sanctuary at Hohenwald, Tennessee, in
late December 2005 expects to receive nine female elephants from the
Hawthorn Corporation of Richmond, Illinois. The move will put John
Cuneo, 74, out of the elephant training and rental business after
Cuneo started the Hawthorn Corporation as a traveling circus
in 1957. Later Cuneo found a more profitable business niche in
leasing animals to other circuses and boarding exotic animals.
Cuneo agreed in March 2004 to settle 47 alleged Animal Welfare Act
violations by divesting of his 16 elephants by August 2004. The
divestiture was repeatedly delayed by disputes over where to send
Cuneo sent the Elephant Sanctuary a female elephant named
Delhi in 2003, and two females, Lota and Misty, in 2004.
Cuneo acquired Lota, a longtime activist cause celebre, from the
Milwaukee County Zoo in 1990. Lota died from tuberculosis in
February 2005, only four months after her arrival at the Elephant
Sanctuary. Her death reminded activists and news media that the
Occupational Safety & Health Administration in August 1996 fined
Hawthorn $37,000 for failing to properly protect workers from the
risk of tuberculosis, after a Hawthorn elephant named Joyce died
from TB in Las Vegas while leased to the Circus Vargas.
The Elephant Sanctuary had expected to receive all 12 of the
elephants who remained with Cuneo at Lota’s death. The sanctuary
built a $3 million facility to house them, raising half the money
from 40,000 supporters to match the remainder, put up by the
Texas-based Harold Simmons Foundation.
However, amid the critical publicity that followed Lota’s
death, Cuneo won USDA permission to send three females to the
Endangered Ark Foundation in Hugo, Oklahoma, founded by the late
Carson & Barnes Circus owner D.R. Miller in 1993.
Miller died in 1999. The Endangered Ark Foundation is now headed by
his daughter, Barbara Byrd, 59. Her husband, two daughters, and
her daughters’ husbands, all involved with the circus, form the
rest of the board of directors.
PETA and In Defense of Animals opposed sending the elephants
to the Endangered Ark Foundation. PETA sought a court order to block
the deal, but in June 2005 U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman
ruled in Hugo, Oklahoma that PETA had no standing to pursue the case.