Lode Elephant Refuge Goes Solar

With their colossal bodies and their inability to sweat, wild elephants are considered especially vulnerable to rising temperatures.

But a sanctuary for retired and rescued elephants near San Andreas is doing its part to help those endangered populations on the far side of the world.

The Performing Animal Welfare Society just went solar. More than 400 panels have been placed atop large barns at the ARK 2000 sanctuary that house eight African and Asian elephants, along with bears and big cats.

One facility switching to clean energy isn’t going to solve climate change, of course.

“But hopefully we’re being a model for other organizations to take this step, too,” spokeswoman Kim Gardner said Wednesday.

PAWS says it will also save $1.5 million in electricity over the next quarter-century, money that until now has been needed to keep the lights on and to cool the produce and meat that the animals rely upon.

Now, that money can be used for some other purpose at the 2,300-acre refuge.

“Being a nonprofit organization, it is our duty to be prudent and protect the precious donor donations,” Gardner said. “That’s always a very high priority.”

The solar panels will reduce PAWS’ carbon footprint by about 25 tons of carbon dioxide per month, the equivalent of burning 4,000 gallons of gasoline, the organization says.

Elephants are among the many species that scientists say face some level of risk from climate change. Three years ago, a study of more than 8,000 elephants over three generations found that excessive heat increases death rates for elephants of all ages, doubling the death rate for babies younger than 5.

Death rates have also increased during severe droughts, the likes of which may become more common. One 2008 study suggests that older elephants who have survived past droughts may be more likely to endure future ones because they know where they need to travel to find water.

— Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 or abreitler@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/breitlerblog and on Twitter @alexbreitler.

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