Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Home News Pat Derby, Savior of Elephants, Dies

Pat Derby, Savior of Elephants, Dies

By LIONEL ROLFE

Pat Derby, founder of Ark2000, a 2000-acre refuge for elephants in the Mother Lode where at least one of the alleged pachyderm victims of the Los Angeles Zoo lived out her last days in happier refuge, has died.

Pat Derby died Friday at 69 from throat cancer, with her long-time companion Ed Stewart at her side.

She and her former husband Ted Derby were famed animal trainers in Hollywood and after working a stint in the late ‘60s with movie animal trainer Ralph Helfer who had a place in an isolated canyon north of Newhall, they opened up their own place, first in Placerita Canyon in Newhall.

One of their most famous animals was Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion, star of the television series Daktari. The cougar in the long-running Lincoln-Mercury television ad was one of theirs. The Derbys could get their animals to do things no one else could do, and not with the traditional whips but with something they called “affection training.”

Pat met Ted Derby in San Francisco nightclubs in the mid-60s. She had a revue act and sang. He was her drummer.

But what really drew them together was their love of animals.  Even after their marriage ended, they kept working together and inevitably they would end up running animal orphanages, a court of last resort for wild animals that otherwise would have been euthanized. Most of the animals had had tragic histories–sold as “exotics,” many of their bears, lions, wolves, jaguars, lions, Bengali tigers and falcons had been horribly mistreated.

They tried to support their beasts with the “working” animals in movies. And they made good money because they were the best there was. But the creditors were always at the door–especially the butchers.

Eventually, after a long series of travails, Ted Derby was fatally shot by someone for a variety of murky reasons near Tehachapi in 1976, and most of the animals went to be the first occupants of the Wildlife Waystation in the Angeles National Forest.

That same year, Pat wrote a book called “The Lady & Her Tiger” and Hollywood celebrities came to her support. Kim Basinger and her then husband Alex Baldwin helped raise the millions of dollars to acquire the Mother lode land for ARK2000, and Pat Derby set about protecting some of the world’s myriad of abused elephants.

ARK2000 is about 350 miles north of Derby’s old stomping grounds around the Los Angeles basin. It’s in the Mother Lode on the western side of the Sierra, the great California  mountain range thrust up to the skies from an ancient seabed a mere hundred million years or so ago. The eastern side of the range is rocky and steep and sheer. The western side where gold was discovered in the Mother Lode is a land seemingly made pastoral by trees and flowers and lush, west green meadows, although the gentleness of the land is a bit misleading, since the Mother Lode is the result of the grinding of two great continental plates.

ARK2000 is half way between  Angels Camp and San Andreas in Calaveras County, immortalized in Mark Twain’s tales of the Gold Rush.

Although she was many hundreds of miles away from the Los Angeles basin when she died, Derby was a character in the great controversy about the Pachyderm Forest at the Los Angeles Zoo only resolved by a Superior Court judge in the city’s favor this year.

Retired game show host Bob Barker had offered $1.5 million to bring Billy the Elephant from the zoo to the Mother Lode where he could  join Ruby, a former Los Angeles Zoo elephant already in happier circumstances at  Ark2000. Folks like Cher and Lilly Tomlin showed up at Los Angeles council meetings where there was furious arguments about the zoo and its beleaguered elephants.

Actress Betty White, also an animal lover, defended the zoo’s treatment of its elephants, despite the opinion this year by Superior Court Judge John L. Segal saying the elephants were treated badly, and had been forced to live terrible, almost abusive lives. But Segal stopped just short of saying their treatment was so bad the zoo pachyderm forest should be closed down. This killed Barker’s plans to send Billy to ARK2000.

Despite the the title of her best-selling book in 1976, this was where she first confessed her biggest love was for elephants. “It had to begin with elephants. I was born in love with all elephants; not for a reason that I know, not because of their  individual qualities– wisdom, kindness, power, grace, patience, loyalty -but for what they are altogether, for their entire elephantness.”

A direct descendant of the great English poet Percy B. Shelly, Pat was born in England and came to seek her fortune in America when she was 19. So there was a lot of thinking and philosophy behind her love of animals. There were a couple of writers who formed her views. One was Konrad Lorenz, whose pioneering work on imprinting in ducks in such volumes as “King Solomon’s Ring” confirmed her own observations with the animals she was always collecting. Then there was Dr. John Lilly, who wrote about the brains of whales and porpoises.

Derby’s experiences was primarily with land animals, and ultimately she concluded, “People just aren’t willing to accept the act that our brains may not be the best ones. When you spend time with elephants, you realize the way they communicate with very sophisticated systems of calling one another and sending messages every days, in ways that put them way ahead of us.”

She noted that homo sapiens have spent centuries tormenting the largest creatures on earth, the elephants, as well as the largest animals in the sea, whales. What she wanted to do with ARK2000 was attempt to try and make up for “the terrible years they have spent among us.”

But she also noted, it is not just the size of animals that matters. She pointed out that many researchers believe dolphins have more highly developed brains than our own, and that despite the fact people deride the intelligence of birds, “many birds are highly intelligent.”

And she added, “We go to church. We study, we meditate, always trying to seek the truth about ourselves, to discover ourselves, to find peace. People make millions and kill themselves. Elephants just have that inner peace. You just look at them, and wonder, where does it come from.”

[portfolio_slideshow]

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Most Popular

New Long Beach Bridge Scheduled to Open Oct. 5

The new bridge will provide a higher passage for cargo ships, extra traffic lanes for trucks and cars, emergency lanes, greater resiliency in an earthquake and a 100-year minimum lifespan.

More Than Meets the Eye

San Pedro resident releases photobook of leading African-American figures and reflective quotes about mothers What do you see when...

La Bocca Felice: The Happy Mouth to Replace Pappy’s Seafood

This past June, Greg Morena, restaurateur and owner of Pappy’s, announced he was selling the historic restaurant location for $2.5 million. At...

During Climate Week 2020, Gov. Newsom to Host California Climate Action Day Highlighting California’s Global Leadership

The series of virtual conversations will cover topics including building the state’s climate resilience, implementing climate policies in an equitable way, aligning financial decision-making with climate realities and other subjects.

Recent Comments

Dan Rodemsky on Fog In the Media
The Anti-fascists are the Fascists on The Truth About Antifa
Scott Wallace on The Truth About Antifa
David C Lizarraga on Episode – San Pedro: The Podcast
Randomly Lengthly Walt on Republicans’ Revolt
Antifa are the real fascists on The Truth About Antifa
Artemis Gordon on The Truth About Antifa
Vicky Palesa Adam on Lung Health Tips for COVID-19
J.S on Icarus Falls
Ghost from your past! on Icarus Falls
Lisa Bennett on The Truth About Antifa
Dave on Icarus Falls
Kevin on Icarus Falls
DAVID J LEE on Think: George Floyd
M Mackey on Think: George Floyd
Michael S. Motta on Think: George Floyd
Thomas "HOUSE" Houchens on Think: George Floyd
Eliath Mena on Think: George Floyd
Deidre Powell on Think: George Floyd
Marcia Ladymgirl on Think: George Floyd
Jennifer L on Think: George Floyd
Carlos Fisher on Think: George Floyd
Jose "cheMMa" Rodriguz on Think: George Floyd
Aniza Thomas on Think: George Floyd
David Seay on Think: George Floyd
Marc LJ on Think: George Floyd
andre edwards on Think: George Floyd
Terelle Jerricks on From Pop Culture to Cop Culture
Sharon Hislop on Think: George Floyd
Fetteroff on Think: George Floyd
Raul Acevedo Jr. on Think: George Floyd
Mel Grayson on Think: George Floyd
Terelle Jerricks on A Virtual World of Events 
Alice r. Knoop on Lung Health Tips for COVID-19
Melina Paris on Take me to Sardine
Joshua E Chambers on Take me to Sardine
Chad Dorchester on Take me to Sardine
Terelle Jerricks on Change Won’t Be Televised
Melina Paris on Take me to Sardine
Melina Paris on Take me to Sardine
Melina Paris on Take me to Sardine
Bob Kohler on About
Judie M Barker on About
Kim Kaufman on Staff
Kim Kaufman on Staff
Vivian Morales on From War to Lowrider
Robin Doyno on Staff
Publisher on About
Joe Stackhouse on Advertise
Marshariki Haylock on A Stabbing in San Pedro
CARRIE MENDOZA on A Stabbing in San Pedro
Martin Palmiere EMC(SW) ret. on Trouble on the Iowa
Martin A.Palmiere EMC(SW) USN(ret.) on Trouble on the Iowa
John H Winkler on Frequently Asked Questions
J. McVey on Staff
Malou Mariano on Tampering and Collusion
Terrell Williams on The New Gap Band Fills The Gap
Alton C . Thompson, Ph. D. on About
Harold Ericsson on Letters to the Editor
Hillbinkel on Trouble on the Iowa
Ian Gordon on KKJZ Leaves CSULB Campus
larry lebedin on KKJZ Leaves CSULB Campus
Joseph Bianco on Frequently Asked Questions
Deborah Steed on Zerby Family Finds Solace
Don Griffin on Rosenberg
Pete on About
Anne Marie Knudsen on Clem Pennington is the Whole Package
Terelle Jerricks on About
Lyn Jensen on Go Retro with Records
Steven R. Heldt on Fig Trees Are Like Democracies
Joanne Sims on Peacocks, Paseo, Politics
Dave Borst-Smith on Peacocks, Paseo, Politics
Charles Traupmann on The Buscaino Report:
james P. Allen on Across the Great Divide
Allyson Vought on Across the Great Divide
PBinLostAngeles on RL NEWS Roundups: June 14, 2016
davehall on Voter Guide
Chris formica Gringos Tacos on Food Truck Blues
Random Lengths News on Iowa Fever
Tinisha Rodrique on IMG_1761
polos fred perry on Less Than a Side Show
cheap soccer jersey on Less Than a Side Show
le mahjong gratuit on The Surrealness of Knives and Breast
Harry and the Gang on Sherlock Holmes at the LB Playhouse
neufert architect s data pdf on IMG_1761
sewing machine reviews on Annie at the Warner Grand