My last blog was about Pat Derby, co-founder of PAWS in California, and critics against her poor competence as animal trainer, her total lack of welfare for animals etc during her years as "trainer".
I found an interesting link on Circus Fans Association of America where you can read, among other things regarding Animal Rights Activists and PAWS: "Derby rarely mentions how in her days as a trainer and operator of a roadside zoo in Buellton , CA, an elephant in her care died in a barn fire."
The last line, about Neena surprised me, because for sure, it seems really like Mrs Derby doesnt want to speak about this elephant Neena. Searching through PAWS documents, and googling, it was like Neena hadnt existed, which is very rare, normally, an elephant owners first elephant is like the first love. But thanks to Mr Ryan Easley, who help me with lot of american elephants records in my database, and Mr Robert Cline, a circus historian who has generously shared with me his records, I already had Neena in my database.
Neena arrived Big Johns circus in 1962 and was bought by Ted Derby in 1970, when Ted and Pat Derby stayed at a place refered to as Buellton Wild Animal Park and sometimes called Andersens zoo, in Buellton.
The article animal stunts tells about how Pat Derby rode Neena, through the ceremonial opening ribbon at the San Diego Wild Animal Park in 1972 and later gave talks about her animals to zoo visitors.
More traces of Neena is to be find on Circus Report from 24 of July 1978: which tells about Big John Strong Circus in Cincinnatti, Ohio, and "Chris Burell and Neena the elephant". This circus report also mentions: "Pat Derby, animal trainer and author of the book the lady and her tiger, has moved her animals to "Howling Wolf Lodge" at Legget, California. Later, I understood from Robert Cline, that Big John Strong Circus had three different elephants, all called Neena. Ted Derbys Neena was number 2 on Big John Strong Circus, while the mentioned Chris Burell and Neena the elephant seems to have been Neena number 3.
Obviously Neena 2 was used in the film Alabamas Ghost, released 1973.You can read the most interesting intrigue from the film Alabamas Ghost here, and also the lines Neena the Elephant as well as:
The article Open wide, elephant caretaker published in August 13, 1977, shows Nina, when she was housed at Pat Derbys famous wild animals in Earl Laursens farm, Pomeroy Road, Nipomo Mesa, Santa Ynez Valley in Californa. and Ray Ryan, who started to work for Pat Derby in 1976. In 1981, Ryan went to San Diego State to get a degree in Psychology, and worked at with African elephants at the San Diego Wild Animal Park until 1988. Since 2010 Ray Ryan work at Kerulos center, which I emailed, asking to get in contact with Mr Ryan. I never had an answer, seems he dont want to speak about Neena. (More about Ray Ryan at Kerulos Center.)
After 1977 Internet does not give any more glimpses of Neena that I succeeded to find. But after Pat Derby and Ed Stewart moved to Legget, California, she seems to have been housed there, on Howling Wolf Lodge and Wild Animal Sanctuary where Neena is supposed to have died, in a barn fire, in February 1982.
At least two persons with direct connections to Neena has confirmed that this was the case.
It seems to me that Pat Derby was rather trying to hide the facts about Neenas death. Why? It must be a terrible experience if your elephant dies in a barn fire, and the only page with a connection to PAWS, where I have seen Neenas name mentioned is a pdf document titled tributes, where Brian Busta, ARK 2000 Sanctuary Manager/Senior Elephant Keeper mention her, together with the other Asian elephants..
Who, or what started the barnfire where the elephant died, and why has Neenas name been hidden throughout PAWS history?
6th of May 2013 I posted a question on PAWS Facebook page, asking: You write "Every elephant has a story, and we are part of that story." What is Neenas story? adding a link to the page I did about Neena in my database. Noone answered my question on PAWS Facebook page, and within 24 hours it was deleted by PAWS. Please continue to ask them what happened to Neena on PAWS Facebook.
It seems that Earnie Brnscomb, volunteer fireman since 1973 in Legget have some knowledge about the barnfire in Legget 1982, so I have written an email to him to get more details about the fire.
Meanwhile, the traces I have found on Internet, are from people who gives indication of anger regarding the death, as if they blame Pat Derby. Is this why Derby was qiet about Neena?
Lauren Tariel, daughter to Larry Tariel who worked with Neena on John Strongs circus, writes on Facebook page Pet Law News and Facebook page for Circus Historical Society:
"The circus also had three elephants at different times named Neena. The Neena my dad worked with retired and went to Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) who claimed that they "rescued" Neena. Pat Derby who took Neena wrote in her book, A Lady and Her Tiger, about the tricks that Neena did because Neena "wanted to" and not because she had to. Pat seemed clueless that Neena was trained to do those things because she wanted to learn them. Neena would do her act even when her handler was not in the ring. My dad wanted to visit Neena because she lived nearby, but she died in a fire at PAWS. The people who claimed to "rescue" Neena, killed her with negligence."
My dad wanted to visit Neena because she lived nearby, but she died in a fire at PAWS. The people who claimed to "rescue" Neena, killed her with negligence.
The article Animal rights activist Pat Derby dies at 70 says "Derby was known to have a special affection for the elephants, at times sleeping in the animals’ barn to be near them."
In my last blog about Pat Derby, co-founder of PAWS in California, Jan Giacinto, Exotic Animals in Santa Rita, discusses her drinking habits: "Pat bragged about how the agency sent her cases of wine. That was her favourite drink, and she would have her glass in around ten in the morning. I have seen her drink wine while working on the commercial with fullgrown cougars."
If Pat Derby was drinking a lot of wine during the early eighties, and was at times sleeping in Neenas barn, is it possible that Pat Derby also was a smoker, and that she accidently started the fire that killed Neena?
Is this why people who knew Neena are so upset?Who can tell more about what happened to Neena?
At Last Chance For Animals in Los Angeles you can request investigation regarding Neenas death.
- Circus Fans Association of America
- The elephant Neena in the elephant database
- Zoo show time has no hassles August 04, 1971
- Animal stunts
- Alabamas Ghost
- Neena the Elephant
- The article Open wide published in August 13, 1977
- Ray Ryan at Kerulos Center
- Circus Report from 24 of July 1978
- Facebook page Pet Law News