The grounds are home to elephants Gypsy and Wanda, who performed for the same circus before being split up. When the pair ended up 20 years later at the sanctuary, they "went crazy and are inseparable," said Pat Derby, the former animal trainer who co-founded the Performing Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS, which operates the sanctuary.
Their new life, in nature and without the demands of performing, represents her dream, Derby says in "An Apology to Elephants." The film is dedicated to Derby, who died in February of cancer at age 69.
"Knowing they have some days or even years of safety and peace and dignity, that's the big reward," said Derby in the documentary directed by Amy Schatz.
Tomlin said her hope is that people take heed of what elephants face. Her narration, written by her longtime partner, Jane Wagner, is measured and eloquent, but she's passionate in conversation as she decries "inequity and injustice and suffering" and encourages others to get involved.
"The first thing is to be conscious of the ivory trade. Don't foster anything like admiring ivory objects or people wanting them," she said. "Just to have that consciousness affects the movement of things. It takes years, but it's like getting people to wear seatbelts."
Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at lelber(at)ap.org and on Twitter (at)lynnelber.