A MESSAGE FROM BOB CHASTAIN, CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN ZOO PRESIDENT & CEO – You may recall that several months ago, we reported that an out-of-state animal rights group sued the Zoo and me as CEO for the release of our five elephants to a sanctuary of this group’s choosing. For the past five months, we have been working with former Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers’ law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck to defend us in this important case. The Zoo’s board of directors selected this firm, in particular, because of their national presence and Mayor Suthers’ long history with Colorado Springs and the state of Colorado, having served as the state’s Attorney General and then as the city’s mayor.
On Dec. 3, 2023, 4th Judicial District Judge Eric Bentley denied this group’s petition and sided with CMZoo and our right to care for our elephants in their own home. Judge Bentley went on to say that even if he accepted every fact this group presented as truthful and accurate (as he is required by law to do), they still did not have a legal case against the Zoo. To further make sure he followed every point of law and was above reproach in his court opinion, he detailed their argument in full to demonstrate his complete understanding of the case for 27 pages. Furthermore, he stated that if anyone had earned the right to speak on the best interest of the elephants, it would not be this out-of-state group, but instead, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, who has dedicated itself to these amazing animals.
Judge Bentley said in his ruling, “This is not just a technicality. There is a legitimate question in this case as to who properly speaks for the elephants (or, in other words, who gets to be the “elephant Lorax”) – the NHRP, which represents that it wants to improve their lives by moving them to an accredited elephant sanctuary, or the Zoo, which has fed them, nurtured them, and taken care of them for many years. It appears to be the Zoo, and not the NHRP, that has the more significant relationship with Missy, Kimba, Lucky, LouLou, and Jambo.”
While this is a victory in this frivolous case against a community treasure, where more than 800,000 people come every year to enjoy time with each other in the presence of some of the world’s most inspiring creatures, there is likely more to come from this small group of extremists, who are clearly using this as a fundraising tactic and to change Colorado law. One need to look no further than their IRS Form 990 to see this.
What comes next: In Colorado, there is an appeal as of right to the Colorado Court of Appeals. Such an appeal could likely take up to a year. If they lose again, they would have an option to petition the Colorado Supreme Court to hear the case.
It is unfortunate that the judge denied the Zoo’s request for attorney’s fees. While it is a relief to get over this first hurdle, it is sad to know that we will continue to pay significant legal fees to further defend ourselves after this group has lost so many times and wasted so much of the court’s and four different accredited zoos’ time. This out-of-state group makes money off of our distraction from our mission of saving animals from extinction.
Even Judge Bentley said in his ruling, “…it is unfortunate that this case pits two organizations against each other that perhaps ought to be on the same side. As noted above, the role of zoos has evolved, and today zoos, including the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, play a leading role in wildlife conservation efforts and education. (E.g., https://wildwelfare.org/the-conservationmission-of-zoos-nabila-aziz/). The Zoo is known, in particular, for its work with giraffes, for which it is nationally recognized. (https://www.cmzoo.org/conservation/giraffe-conservation/).”
I would like to personally thank you for your continued support, and encourage you to keep sharing the good work we do with your friends and family in the community. With our community rallying around us, we plan to continue to win this battle on behalf of our elephants.