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From Chains to Sanctuary; Lota the Elephant is Finally Rescued after Years of Suffering.

HOHENWALD, Tenn. -- Lota, a circus elephant that has been the focus of three lawsuits, the inspiration for an international petition for her release and responsible for raising awareness of the plight of captive elephants worldwide, will finally be released to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

Earlier this year, a lawsuit was brought by the United States Department of Agriculture against the Illinois-based Hawthorn Corporation, the company that owns Lota. In the suit, the Hawthorn Corporation, a company which trains and rents elephants for circuses, was charged with numerous counts of cruelty and neglect of its 16 circus elephants. As a result, John Cuneo, owner of the Hawthorn Corporation, agreed to relinquish his 16 elephants by August 15th to facilities approved by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Just days before the elephants were to be surrendered; the Hawthorn Corporation filed two motions stopping the placement of the elephants until a determination can be made by the court.

Of all the zoos, circuses and sanctuaries in the United States, the USDA selected The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee as the permanent home for Lota and Misty; both diagnosed as suffering from the human strain of tuberculosis.

In mid-July the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency issued an import permit for Lota and Misty, but the Tennessee State Veterinarian, Dr. Ron Wilson, voiced his concern regarding the elephants' health. Dr. Wilson spent the next three months preparing a report listing his concerns that Lota and Misty posed a threat to wildlife and the beef cattle industry in the state. Once the report was released by the Department of Agriculture, the TWRA issued the import permit to allow Lota and Misty into the state.

These elephants will require special facilities separate from other elephants for the duration of their nine-month treatments. A state-of-the-art quarantine barn has been prepared for their arrival.

In an effort to rescue all 16 Hawthorn elephants, the Sanctuary has established a world class health and welfare program. Thanks to a successful fundraising effort which generated $1,500,000 followed by a generous matching grant of $1,500,000, the Sanctuary is able to construct two new barns and hopefully rescue all 16 Hawthorn elephants. The health and welfare program would keep these 16 elephants together and through non-invasive research, benefit many captive elephants around the world.

The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, is the nation's only natural-habitat refuge developed specifically to meet the needs of endangered elephants. It is a non-profit organization, licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, designed specifically for old, sick or needy elephants that have been retired from zoos and circuses. Utilizing more than 2700 acres, it provides two separate and protected, natural habitat environments for Asian and African elephants. To learn more about the Sanctuary or to make a donation to help rescue Lota and the Hawthorn elephants please visit their web site at www.elephants.com or call 931-796-6500 Ext. 26.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Nov 17, 2004
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