Ed Stewart, co-founder, president and CEO of the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)

by | Mar 27, 2024

Ed Stewart, co-founder, president and CEO of the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)—which blazed a trail in animal rescue, welfare, education, and legislation, and this year, marks its 40th anniversary—recalls what she and co-founder Pat Derby were doing in the earliest days of PAWS. Stewart notes that Derby, his longtime partner who died in 2013–and an eloquent, red-headed dynamo, who was not to be trifled with—had long rescued animals before they joined forces in forming PAWS. He points out that animal rescue and advocacy characterized their formative years, but so, too, did efforts early on assisting in the formulation of California legislation, including a law that helped mitigate the ivory trade as well as the bull hook ban (a collaborative campaign with the Oakland Zoo and the Humane Society of the United States)—a critical regulation in that it precluded circuses and other entities with performing elephants (which use bull hooks to “control” them) from plying their trade in California. At my urging, Stewart offered a rapturous remembrance of Derby (and I added my own affectionate recollection of her), enthusing about everything from her deep familiarity with great literature, to her immensely articulate statements as a high-level animal advocate, to her supreme talents in helping traumatized elephants heal. We talked about ARK 2000, the glorious 2300-acre sanctuary PAWS operates in San Andreas, CA, housing 11 elephants, as well as big cats, bears, capuchin monkeys, and more, noting the newest resident is a skittish bobcat, and other animals are on the horizon, but Stewart said he couldn’t discuss those because they’re part of court cases where those critters have been seized. Stewart says the annual cost to feed and care for an elephant there, not counting additional medical costs, is about $70,000. PAWS welcomes donations: https://www.pawsweb.org/donate_online.html The broad intention of this conversation was to urge Stewart to reflect on the 40 years of PAWS, including key developments, challenges and milestones across those four decades. I also asked him to look ahead a bit to PAWS’ future, to which he chiefly replied by mentioning that he’s 73, and had his own battle with cancer a couple of year ago. So a succession plan centers around Stewart ceding leadership to Dr. Chris Draper, currently Chief Operations Officer, and whose experience includes serving as Head of Animal Welfare & Captivity at the Born Free Foundation. [Photo Credits: Courtesy PAWSweb.org] (https://www.pawsweb.org/, https://www.facebook.com/pawsweb.org, https://www.instagram.com/pawsark2000/)

ALSO: I spoke briefly with George Heinrich, the field biologist and environmental educator who specializes in Florida reptiles, who on April 6, is slated to deliver a lecture entitled “Conserving Wildlife and Wildlands: Building a Career in Herpetology,” at Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center, in Tarpon Springs. Heinrich explains that this lecture, along with other endeavors—very much including his summer nature camps—are intended to cultivate in kids an interest in reptiles, echoing how his lifelong passion for amphibians and reptiles began during his childhood in New England, where he observed salamanders and turtles in the local woods there. All these years later, it’s worked out pretty well: He has his own related company, Heinrich Ecological Services, and serves as the Executive Director of the Florida Turtle Conservation Trust. (https://www.ftct.org/, https://www.heinrichecologicalservices.com/)

COMEDY CORNER: Paul F. Tompkins’ “Alternative Pets”  (https://paulftompkins.com/)

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

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE:  We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.


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