Steve Koyle, founder & CEO of Elephant Care Unchained

by | Nov 16, 2022

Steve Koyle—founder and CEO of Elephant Care Unchained, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating elephant cruelty and improving their welfare across multiple countries—recalls loving animals since he was a little kid, when he would spend his summers working on a goat farm. Koyle solidified that fauna fondness by earning a degree in zoology from Michigan State University. Not long after, he explains, he landed a job with the Wildlife Waystation, a 160-acre animal sanctuary in northern Los Angeles County dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating wild and exotic animals. (The facility contended with a complicated reputation, and closed permanently in 2019.) Koyle left the Wildlife Waystation, years before it closed, and began a stint training dogs. Next, he says, he was hired at the Phoenix Zoo, an experience that clearly became professionally pivotal—if not personally pivotal—for Koyle. Especially after he was given the opportunity to specialize in caring for the Zoo’s three elephants. Koyle recounts some anecdotes of his nearly 15 years at the Zoo, most of which was working with those elephants. Over time, the elephant program “took off,” as Koyle put it, becoming a lodestar in the zoo industry, such that keepers and other staffers from other facilities began visiting to observe. Koyle says this period included taking a sabbatical of sorts, involving spending two weeks at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, returning with a proposal to Zoo management that their three elephants be relocated to The Elephant Sanctuary. The proposal was rejected. (The idea–if not stated in the proposal explicitly—was that Koyle would accompany the Zoo elephants to the Sanctuary.) He notes that In a largely unrelated move, at a later period, the Zoo let Koyle go. What amounted to a blessing in disguise, the dismissal left him, as he points out, “unchained,” launching Elephant Care Unchained, freely and independently pursuing the organization’s mission–chiefly, to cultivate elephant welfare across multiple countries. The countries he’s visited thus far, to carry out that mission, include India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. (,,

ALSO: I spoke briefly with Dr. Martha Placeres, Chair of the Music Department and the Director of Orchestra at Florida Southern College, who was slated to lead the Orchestra in a concert that night (Nov. 16), entitled  “Musical Animals and Nature,” described in event listings as “a journey to explore the portraits of animals in music.” In our interview, Placeres made it clear the evening reflected her own fondness for animals, and was to feature music both well known, and less so, including “Carnival of the Animals” by French composer Camille Saint-Saens, a piece based on the film “Dances with Wolves” and an excerpt of “The Firebird Suite,” by Igor Stravinsky. ( list/programs/music.aspx)

COMEDY CORNER: Brian Regan’s “Doctors & Veterinarians” (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE:  The B-52s’ “Rock Lobster”


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