[Ed. Note: A poem about Sabu: Giant Footsteps By Brian Busta]
From Performing Animals
Welfare Society (PAWS)
Sabu: 11/1/82 to 1/11/12
San Andreas, CA - On Wednesday, January 11, 2012, Sabu, PAWS' 29-year-old
Asian bull elephant, succumbed to the effects of severe arthritis in multiple
joints. We will miss this gentle giant.
Born November 1, 1982, at Portland Zoo, Sabu was transferred to a circus in
1984, and then retired to PAWS' ARK 2000 Sanctuary in September 2010. Here Sabu
joined Nicholas, PAWS' youngest bull elephant, also retired from a circus, and
half brother to Sabu.
The two bulls were fathered by Tunga, an Asian bull at Portland Zoo. Tunga
was transferred to a circus facility after Sabu was born, and later sired
Nicholas at that facility. Both Nicholas and Sabu performed in circuses when
they were two years old. Nicholas was retired to PAWS when he was 13 years old,
the first bull elephant at the ARK 2000 Sanctuary. Sabu, PAWS' second bull,
arrived when Nicholas was 17. The two boys were close enough to see and
"It almost appeared that they knew they were related," Pat Derby, one of PAWS
founders, commented. "It was obvious that they were communicating, although
humans never hear the low frequency sounds that elephants use to gather
PAWS has keepers on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Pat Derby and Ed
Stewart, PAWS directors who live on the property, were immediately alerted by
the night keeper who was with Sabu when his giant body collapsed in his large
dirt sleeping stall at approximatly 3:30 on the morning of January 11. PAWS'
veterinarian, Dr. Gai, and elephant supervisor Brian Busta, arrived shortly
after Pat and Ed, and all agreed that efforts to lift him to a standing posture
would be stressful, and his condition indicated that he would be unable to
Sabu was beloved by all who worked with him. He was described by Brian Busta,
as a "big, beautiful boy who was gentle, very intelligent and a best friend."
A team of pathologists from the University of California Davis conducted Sabu's necropsy and preliminary results were reported as "severe arthritis in multiple joints."
Dr. Gai stated, "The degree of severity is what I would expect to see in a
50+ year old captive Asian. I think we were all surprised to see arthritis like
this in someone so relatively young."
Tuy Hoa, Sabu's maternal grandmother at Portland Zoo, was reported to have
died "very young from crippling arthritis."
Nancy Burnet, Director of Bob Barker's DJ&T Foundation which funded Sabu's
barn, pool and habitat, wrote to Sabu's keepers, "The bigger tragedy would have
been if he'd never made it to PAWS - you were Sabu's angels. . . Your constant
love and kindness created a wonderful bond. . . How wonderful it worked out so
that he spent his last year at PAWS, luxuriating in the relief his pond
provided, and moving about freely."
The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) is a nonprofit, captive wildlife protection organization that was founded in 1984. PAWS cares for more than 100 animals at its three wildlife sanctuaries in Northern California. At ARK 2000, a 2,300-acre, state-of-the-art sanctuary, animals live in spacious natural habitats with rolling hills, lush natural grasses, trees, lakes and ponds. PAWS' ARK 2000 sanctuary is home to three female Asian elephants, three female African elephants and two bull Asian elephants, each having been successfully relocated from zoos or the circus industry. At PAWS, the elephants are free to explore the hillsides, splash in their pools, graze and nap as they please. The elephants, and the other rescued wildlife at PAWS, receive humane care, 24 hours a day, and because of ARK 2000, they have a bright and promising future.