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Stanley the giraffe was unharmed by the Woolsey Fire, but Malibu Wines has been widely criticized for keeping the animal and several other animals on its premises. 22nd Century Media File Photo
Joe Coughlin, Publisher
7:35 am PST November 27, 2018

Malibu Wine Safaris endured heavy viral outrage in the wake of the Woolsey Fire after it decided to keep its large animals, including beloved Stanley the giraffe, on site during the disaster.

As evacuation began, postings across social media, some of which were picked up by media outlets, stated Stanley was in danger and needed to be rescued. 

Owners of the safari and Saddlerock Ranch quickly tried to respond to the drama, but the rumors were out of control.

“First and foremost, we’re extremely happy to report that our beloved Stanley the Giraffe is alive and well,” says a statement from Dakota Semler, CEO and founder. “And while we hope to find the one sheep that is still unaccounted for, we can report that the remainder of our animals are in good hands — they’re alive, safe, secure and receiving around-the-clock care. We are also extremely thankful that our staff and volunteers are safe, as well.”

The Woolsey Fire cross Interstate 101 late Thursday night, about the same time Saddlerock Ranch received an evacuation notice. According to ranch personnel, it began to enact evacuation procedures at 12:20 a.m. Nov. 9. 

In his statement, Semler said there were evacuation plans ready for Stanley and the other large animals on the property.

“As [the ranch’s veterinarian] Dr. [Stephen] Klause stated, our ‘fire’ evacuation plan has always consisted of moving the larger animals to land on the property that would be safe from potential fire,” the statement reads. “How did we know this land would be safe from flames? Fortunately, this wide open area at Saddlerock has no trees or brush — and only consists of gravel, dirt, and a large lake. 

“Effectively, this barren enclosure has little to no ‘fuel’ to power a fire or facilitate the spread of one for 80 acres, ample space to store all of our exotic and domestic animals. This was also verified by the USDA.”

As the fire approached midday Friday, however, Stanley still had not been moved from his pen, prompting another round of social media fury that included a petition that amassed thousands of digital signatures.

Semler said the ranch had three teams working to get Stanley and the rest of the animals in their disaster-assigned spaces by 7:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 9. Since Stanley was “distressed,” the teams waited to calm the giraffe before moving him. 

And, he added, the danger implied in a circulating photo was not genuine.

“The image of Stanley circulating on social media, while very jarring, does not portray the proper context of the situation,” he said. “The reason we waited to evacuate Stanley is that he was distraught, and, as previously mentioned, large animals have a tendency to fatally injure themselves in stressful situations. Behind the camera were over 30 men and women keeping Stanley calm, and assembling the necessary resources to remove him from the premises.”

But as many pointed out, the Woolsey Fire was an unprecedented event, both in the speed and movement. So why, many asked, didn’t the ranch attempt to get Stanley and company completely off-site to ensure their safety.

Semler answered that question too.

“It’s important to remember the animals were incredibly distressed,” he wrote. “Moving a distressed animal — especially a large one, like a giraffe of Stanley’s height — onto a trailer is a very delicate process, especially since they can cause injuries to themselves in the process. There was enormous potential for the animals to sustain life-threatening injuries, like a broken leg, which would’ve only compounded our issues at the time.

“It’s paramount to understand that we absolutely did not want to risk injuring Stanley during the evacuation process.”