Imagine the noise, flashing cameras, heat and hardship these four elephants endured when they were forced to take part in a parade in central St Petersburg in Russia earlier this month.
There are at least 100 elephants in Europe that endure hardship like this on a daily basis – working in circus rings.
Although Network for Animals (NFA) and its supporters do not condone the existence of zoos and safari parks, NFA welcomes the news that a sanctuary for former circus elephants is to be created in rural France. Two animal welfare groups joined forces to create the sanctuary in the region of Limousin. If all goes well, the first elephants will move in during September.
At the sanctuary, elephants will be able to roam freely and behave as they would in the wild.
Currently there is no place for circus elephants to retire in Europe.
Ideas for the sanctuary began to take shape following an announcement by the Government of Denmark that it would ban the use of wild animals in circuses. The government made this commitment after a 2015 elephant “bathing show” ended with an agitated animal smashing a vehicle as bystanders narrowly escaped injury. It appears that the proximity of spectators and the noise of hooting cars caused the circus elephants to become agitated until one broke away, stamped on a car and gave it some heavy blows with its trunk.
Since the Danish incident, other European countries have announced similar bans, some of which come into force this year.
“Network for Animals believes that wild animals like elephants should be free to live in their natural habitat in Africa or Asia, but in this case we have to take a practical approach,” said NFA campaign director, David Barritt. “We support the idea of giving circus elephants an opportunity to live out their years in peace and quiet. In most instances, elephants that are trained to perform for humans are beaten and abused and lead long lives full of misery and deprivation. Any initiative to ease their suffering must be applauded.”
Barritt noted that elephants in captivity generally live for about 20 years, half the time of elephants in the wild.
Network for Animals and its sister organisation, the Political Animal Lobby, are engaged in a long-term campaign to prevent the illegal trade in baby elephants between Zimbabwe and China.
“Zimbabwe has repeatedly broken international rules by exporting baby elephants to China,” said Barritt. “There is a growing number of zoos and safari parks in China that pay high prices to corrupt government officials for these animals. Just as we are winning the war against the abuse of animals in the circuses of Europe, so we are losing the battle elsewhere in the world. We will have to increase our efforts to educate people about the terrible cost of “taming” wild animals for the momentary titillation of humans”.