Since the tragic death of Dr Helen Schofield, the owner of Franklin Zoo and the primary caregiver of Mila the African elephant, a large number of media stories have appeared about Mila's future.
SAFE campaigned for over two decades to free Mila (then called Jumbo) from her miserable circus life with the intention of moving her to a specialised elephant sanctuary. Franklin Zoo is currently fundraising to pay for the care of Mila and for her eventual relocation to a refuge where she will at last have the opportunity to be with other elephants.
Mila has been at the zoo since 2009 where she formed a bond with Helen who told SAFE the day before she died that Mila was nearly ready to travel to the US where the best elephants sanctuaries are located. Helen's death has set this process back and the zoo is now suggesting June 2013 as the date Mila will leave for her new home.
After 20 years of campaigning for Mila's welfare SAFE is committed to realising the plans to get Mila to a sanctuary. This may involve a specific fundraising campaign once a sanctuary has been chosen and a relocation date has been confirmed. People who wish to support Franklin's Zoo own fundraising program can find more information on www.franklinzoo.co.nz.
What does Mila's future hold?
30 April 2012
Since the sad death of zookeeper Helen Schofield last week, who was fatally injured by Mila the ex-circus elephant, there has been a lot of discussion in the media about Mila's future. Currently Mila is under the care of keepers from Auckland Zoo drafted in to help staff at Franklin Zoo.
SAFE's Executive Director, Hans Kriek, spoke to Dr Schofield about Mila only the day before her death. "Helen had been full of enthusiasm for Mila's future, making plans to send her to live with other elephants in a specialist US sanctuary. Helen had been crate-training her: teaching her to walk into a crate without fear so that she'd be comfortable traveling. She said the training had gone well, and Mila was ready to be transported overseas. SAFE is committed to ensuring that still happens."
Elephant experts from around the world have joined in the calls for Mila to be transported to the US sanctuary and have stated that nothing positive can come from Mila being euthanised. Talking on TV One, Peter Stroud, an Elephant Behaviour and Welfare Expert who has been involved in Mila's care since she retired to the circus two years ago said, "No blame can be apportioned to the elephant - it's an animal, it does what animals do and understands the world as an elephant would. It is not a human being. Mila has had a very difficult life, alone since the age of four".
Mr Stroud said he hoped that Mila would still be send to the US sanctuary. "It would be a very fitting memorial to the work of Dr Schofield," he said.
Franklin Zoo have since assured the public that they do not intend to euthanise Mila and are committed to her care. The US sanctuary, Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) have also said Mila is welcome at the sanctuary and have been looking at fundraising to get her there as soon as possible.
Mr Kriek says "Mila was incarcerated at the circus for over 30 years, completely alone. At the sanctuary she will be able to roam in large grassy areas, have access to a 20,000 square-foot barn with heated floors, and an elephant Jacuzzi. Most importantly she will finally be part of an adoptive elephant family she has no doubt longed for."
SAFE will continue to talk to other welfare groups about Mila's future and will update as soon as there are plans.
Zookeeper killed in tragic accident
26 April 2012
SAFE is extremely saddened by the death of zookeeper and owner of Franklin Zoo Helen Schofield, and is concerned for the future of Mila, the former circus elephant previously named Jumbo. Schofield was the owner and director of Franklin Zoo, and died as a result of an accident involving Mila, who had spent over thirty years in a circus.
SAFE's Executive director, Hans Kriek, spoke to Dr Schofield about Mila the day before her death. He said she had been full of enthusiasm for Mila's future, making plans to send her to live with other elephants in a specialist sanctuary.
SAFE campaigned over many years to get Jumbo away from a life in the circus, kept in solitary confinement in a trailer, often chained and forced to perform.
"When Mila was Jumbo in the circus, she had a stereotypic behaviour, often swaying her head from side to side,'' Mr Kriek said. "Wild ones don't do that. It's a sign they are not coping well with their captivity. It was my understanding that she improved a lot from going to the zoo.''
SAFE understands that Dr Schofield was Mila's sole caregiver, and had been looking for a sanctuary to which Mila could go. She had planned to visit a Californian rehabilitation centre for former circus and zoo animals called Performance Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS, and Mr Kriek says that all efforts possible should be made to honour Helen's wish, in the best interests of Mila.
"Because there are no other African elephants in New Zealand we knew Franklin Zoo was only going to be a temporary solution. Helen was training her to get her ready to accept being in a crate so she could be transported,'' said Mr Kriek.
"The ideal outcome is that Mila live the rest of her life with other elephants, to enable her to fully rehabilitate would happen as soon as possible. That's the key thing with elephants, they need to live with other elephants because they are such social animals. A lot of animals in zoos and circuses kill their handler either by accident or on purpose. It's just another indication that wild animals just don't belong in captivity."
"There will of course need funds for a move to happen and it may be a case that a corporate sponsor or private individual is needed to step forward to make this possible," Mr Kriek said.
JUMBO'S LIFE VASTLY IMPROVED
For the last six months, former circus elephant Jumbo has been living a much-improved life at Franklin Zoo. SAFE director Anthony Terry and campaign director Hans Kriek recently visited Jumbo to check on her progress.
Jumbo's miserable circus life ended in November last year when the owner of Loritz circus suddenly decided to relinquish responsibility for Jumbo's (possibly costly) retirement by signing her over to the SPCA.
Jumbo's life of confinement to her trailer ended when she was transferred to Franklin Zoo as her temporary home. Jumbo is provided with a large fenced enclosure where she is able to roll in soil, bathe in mud and enjoy stripping bark and leaves from branches that she is provided daily.
"She is looking so much better, and no longer looks like a sad, dejected animal," says Anthony.
"Jumbo now looks bright and alert, following us along the fence line of her enclosure. She has improved muscle tone and has much better skin."
Jumbo receives lots of human attention to compensate for her continued solitary existence. She receives regular training sessions in order to prepare her for her life-changing trip overseas. Franklin Zoo understands that whilst they can provide Jumbo with quality daily care, they cannot provide her with what she needs most - the company of her own kind. The training Jumbo receives will enable her to travel safely to a sanctuary, likely to be in the United States.
"She will be accustomed to a transport crate, and will be taught how to cooperate during a variety of health checks," says Hans.
"The aim is to get Jumbo on her way to America as soon as she is ready. There are two elephant sanctuaries that would be suitable for Jumbo, as they have other African elephants likely to be compatible with her. Transporting an elephant is a big deal (no pun intended) and a lot of preparation will need to take place before Jumbo is ready to travel."
SAFE is pleased that a number of elephant experts have pledged their support to ensure that Jumbo's journey to America will go as smoothly as possible.
"A potential obstacle that needs to be overcome is financing Jumbo's departure, as this will be a costly affair," says Hans.
"We are confident that between all the relevant parties helping Jumbo, that we can attract the necessary sponsorship and public donations to help Jumbo, as she has a special place in the hearts of many people. After more than 30 years of circus misery, all of New Zealand owes Jumbo a peaceful retirement in the company of her own kind."
View Jumbo relaxing at her temporary home at Franklin Zoo.
SAFE's CIRCUS CAMPAIGN - ARCHIVE
JUMBO IS FREE!
2009 - Victory! It has taken over three decades of campaigning, determination and wishful thinking, but after 32 years of being cruelly confined inside the back of a truck, Jumbo is free.
SAFE began its campaign to free Jumbo soon after she began performing in New Zealand, however it has been the last 25 years of constantly challenging the circus and the law demanding that elephants have no place in circuses that has really made a difference.
Peaceful demonstrations have been a regular feature outside the circus and have reminded circus goers that away from the glitz and glamour of the arena there are animals that are suffering and frustrated.
SAFE is absolutely thrilled that Jumbo is now on her way to becoming a free elephant. SAFE has been working with the SPCA and Franklin Zoo in an effort to secure Jumbo, so is delighted that her transition from the circus to an elephant sanctuary has begun.
SAFE campaign director Hans Kriek says the release of Jumbo from the circus could not be a better Christmas gift.
"Jumbo has been a sad case of animal exploitation for over 30 years and SAFE has been committed to getting her out of the circus. It has been no small effort and with the aid of the SPCA Jumbo is now on her way to a more deserving life," says Hans.
CIRCUS PROTEST SUSPENDED
SAFE has suspended protests against the Loritz Circus as it appears the circus has temporarily withdrawn Jumbo the elephant from its shows.
SAFE campaign officer Eliot Pryor says Jumbo hasn't performed since SAFE's last protest in Manukau.
"As long as this situation lasts, SAFE will not protest outside the circus, but we will keep a watchful eye on the situation," says Eliot.
SAFE would also like to congratulate the management at the Ellerslie Racecourse for sharing concerns over Jumbo's welfare when it was brought it to their attention.
LORITZ CIRCUS CHALLENGED IN AUCKLAND
Twenty concerned SAFE volunteers protested in Papatoetoe last weekend (19 Sept), maintaining the pressure on the circus to retire Jumbo the elephant. It has been a year since the Loritz Circus was last in Auckland and it has been having varying fortunes in different parts of New Zealand, with SAFE supporters meeting it in each place.
The circus is now in Albany for three weeks without Jumbo after the North Harbour Stadium refused to give permission to allow the elephant on site. Operations Manager Brian Doherty says he was concerned enough to research the issue and decided it was not appropriate to permit Jumbo on their property.
SAFE congratulates Brian Doherty and the North Harbour Stadium for their position.
Even without Jumbo present SAFE would like to encourage people not to support the circus until there is a real plan for retirement for Jumbo in place.
SAFE volunteers are distributing campaign posters and fliers in the area. If you're able to help spread the word please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Circus spokesman Paul Johnson told SAFE he believes there is no evidence to show Jumbo is not happy and is determined to keep touring her, ostensibly to raise funds for some kind of retirement. SAFE believes that this is ‘more of the same' and is not impressed, as there is still no real intention on the part of the circus to stop the touring of Jumbo.
FREE JUMBO PROTESTS
SAFE's ongoing awareness campaign to help Jumbo the elephant saw colourful protests being mounted in New Plymouth and Taumaranui.
In New Plymouth, SAFE's peaceful demonstration attracted a dozen people keen to speak out against Jumbo's living conditions. The action attracted positive media attention both before and after the protest.
A big thanks to local coordinator, Sarndra Oke, for organising the successful protest.
The circus proceeded to Taumaranui where it was greeted by SAFE supporters including Chris Brady, a teacher, who brought along some of his friends to protest outside the circus. Chris says some of the school children attending the circus spotted him and decided to support him instead by handing out SAFE leaflets to circus-goers. Nice one, Chris!
The circus will soon be in Papatoetoe, and Auckland SAFE has organised a protest this weekend.
COMPLAINT BOARD RULES AGAINST SAFE
A complaint made by Loritz Circus against a SAFE circus leaflet was recently upheld by the Advertising Standards Complaint Board, which resulted in some criticism in the media. Is SAFE concerned?
No. The leaflet ‘Circuses Have Their Sad Side' stated that Jumbo is regularly tethered by a heavy chain, and that she often exhibits repetitive (stereotypic) behaviour such as swaying, and that stereotypic behaviour is a sign of psychological distress.
The Advertising Standards Complaint Board (ASA) considered that SAFE had not been able to adequately substantiate that Jumbo was regularly tethered by a heavy chain, nor that the swaying behaviour exhibited by Jumbo was exclusively an indication of psychological stress.
Jumbo is however tethered by a heavy chain inside her trailer on a regular, if not daily, basis. SAFE has video and still camera footage taken on different occasions between 2008 and 2009 showing Jumbo tethered during the day. This is in breach of the circus code of welfare.
Swaying in elephants is recognised by animal behaviourists as a stereotypic behaviour. Stereotypic behaviours are abnormal repetitive behaviours that are displayed by animals that have difficulty coping with the conditions they are in and are an indicator of poor welfare.
Loritz Circus claims that elephants in the wild sway to create air movement, thereby cooling themselves, and as a natural way of redistributing their weight. The circus has offered no scientific evidence to back up their claims. Experts say that elephants in the wild do not sway.
SAFE campaign director Hans Kriek says the ASA ruling, while unfortunate, will not stop SAFE's ongoing fight for Jumbo's release from the circus.
"Jumbo has led a miserable, lonely life for more than thirty years and SAFE is determined to see her living the rest of her life in far superior conditions in the company of her own kind," says Hans.
In light of the recent ASA finding, SAFE's ‘Circuses Have Their Sad Side' leaflet has been amended to better reflect a more accurate position as to the quality of life of Jumbo and what's wrong with circuses with animals.
Elephants in captivity - What the experts say
"As an internationally recognized world authority on these animals [elephants] I can categorically state that the stereotypic swaying of a miserable captive indicates psychotic behaviour caused by trauma and stress." Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick DBE MBS DVMS, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, UNEP Global 500 Laureate.
"I have made thousands of hours of observation on many thousands of wild elephants, yet I have never seen a wild elephant swaying." Dr Joyce Poole, animal behaviour scientist, world-leading expert on elephant social behaviour.
"Stereotypic behaviour has never been noted in more than 34,000 sightings of wild elephant groups containing one to 550 individuals." Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Elephant Research Project long-term records.
CIRCUS ACTIONS CONTINUE
The Free Jumbo national campaign tour has been shadowing the Loritz Circus throughout the country for over a year, staging over 25 peaceful yet colourful demonstrations.
SAFE campaign officer Sacha Dowell says the actions have been successful in gaining positive media attention, as well as attracting overwhelming public support.
"We recently staged successful protests in Blenheim and in the Wellington region," says Sacha. "In the case of Blenheim, no sooner had local SAFE member Vicki Baker contacted me to become involved was she organising a peaceful demonstration that attracted over a dozen anti-circus supporters," proclaims Sacha.
In Wellington, SAFE organiser Trudi Uttinger reports during one protest a mother who intended to go to the circus with her children, observed Jumbo the elephant in her trailer swaying from side to side, before deciding to instead join the protest! "Fantastic stuff!" says Sacha.
The circus will soon be in Featherston, Carterton and Masterton. If you're in these areas and can help, please email Sacha. email@example.com
SAFE COMPLAINT HELPS JUMBO
SAFE has made an official complaint to MAF and the SPCA after observing Jumbo was kept in conditions that were in breach of the circus code of welfare.
SAFE also supplied video evidence showing Jumbo has been illegally tethered in her trailer, kept in inadequate living conditions without sufficient exercise and kept on the hard surface of a car park. The Dunedin SPCA immediately issued the circus with a notice to relocate Jumbo within 24 hours.
SAFE is delighted that the SPCA acted on SAFE's complaint which now refutes claims made by Loritz Circus that they had SPCA approval.
COUNCIL CONVINCED JUMBO SUFFERS
SAFE congratulates councillors for making the right choice.
SAFE is delighted the Dunedin City Council has overwhelmingly voted to adhere to its policy of not allowing circuses with exotic animals to perform on council land.
Loritz Circus was scheduled to perform in Dunedin for three weeks from the first week of April with Jumbo, its performing circus elephant. While SAFE was expecting the Council to refuse the circus on the grounds it had a policy prohibiting exotic animals from performing, several of the councillors favoured making an exemption. After much lobbying from SAFE, who also supplied supporting evidence from a leading international elephant expert, the council has since voted in favour of adhering to its ban. SAFE congratulates the councillors for their stance and support.
COUNCIL VOTES AGAINST ABUSE
Dunedin City Council has voted against making an exemption to Loritz Circus to allow them to perform with their elephant on council land next month. Dunedin City Council has a policy of banning circuses with exotic animals from performing on their land.
Over the past two weeks SAFE has provided Dunedin City councillors with expert opinion that Jumbo the elephant is likely to be suffering from stress and evidence that she is kept in conditions which breach the circus code of welfare.
SAFE also presented statements from RNZSPCA Chief Executive Robyn Kippenberger and Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick, an international elephant expert from Kenya. Click here to download full letter.
After viewing footage of Jumbo tethered in her trailer and repetitively swaying, Dr Sheldrick wrote:
"I would hope and expect the New Zealand authorities to take corrective measures regarding the elephant named 'Jumbo', whose stereotypic behaviour indicates profound stress, boredom and unhappiness."
"There are no circumstances that the SPCA could approve of this use of the elephant Jumbo," writes RNZSPCA Chief Executive Robyn Kippenberger. "We are hopeful that the [Dunedin City] Council will stick by their previous stance regarding the prohibition of display of exotic animals and prevent this circus from further exploiting Jumbo."
"Dunedin City Council's policy had previously sent a strong message that animal cruelty was not tolerated in Dunedin, and they have now adhered to their moral stance for which we congratulate them" says SAFE campaign officer Sacha Dowell.
"The Council have chosen to take note of SAFE's information and statements from the SPCA and elephant experts, instead of relying simply of Loritz Circus' misleading information " says Ms Dowell.
FREE JUMBO CAMPAIGN GAINS PUBLICITY
During the past two months SAFE has caused a media furore about the inadequate treatment of circus elephant Jumbo at the Loritz Circus.
SAFE held roadside demonstrations in Christchurch, Queenstown, Wanaka and Cromwell to raise awareness of Jumbo's appalling living conditions, which attracted widespread publicity. In Christchurch, stories and letters to the editor featured in The Press, as well as a lengthy story on CTV, in addition to radio interviews on RadioLive, RDU and Newstalk ZB.
While the circus was in Otago, SAFE protests resulted in articles in the Otago Daily Times, Mountain Scene, Southland Times and the Wanaka Sun.
SAFE volunteers responded to our call to write letters to the editor and a handful were published, and an editorial in The Press was published about the problems with keeping elephants in captivity.
CIRCUS IN TOWN!
Christchurch SAFE volunteers had their chance to participate in the Free Jumbo campaign last weekend when a large roadside demonstration was held. Passers by tooted their support for SAFE's opposition to Loritz Circus' continued incarceration of the solitary elephant Jumbo.
In Christchurch Jumbo has been observed tethered in her small trailer in breach of the code of welfare for circuses, despite SAFE's complaints to MAF and the circus claiming Jumbo was "no longer tethered at any time." The circus is currently performing in Christchurch until the 18th of January.
If you are keen to get involved in the campaign by distributing flyers and putting up posters, writing a letter to the paper or participating in a protest, email firstname.lastname@example.org asap.
CIRCUS FUSS IN NELSON
A protest by SAFE Nelson campaigners successfully discouraged locals from attending the visiting Loritz Circus once they were made aware of how the circus animals are kept. Nelson City Council also had to admit that they had made a mistake when it was pointed out by SAFE that they had a policy against allowing circuses with exotic animals on public land.
The local paper printed an article about the protest, which was followed by letters to the editor expressing concern about Jumbo's situation. SAFE organiser Kath Greig was reported in the Nelson Mail as saying that she "...hoped that Nelson people would boycott the circus in favour of attending animal-free circuses." VIEW ARTICLE
CIRCUS REMAINS PRESSURED
Demonstrations against the Loritz Circus in Auckland have drawn to a close following a campaign that involved letter writing, poster distribution and local SAFE campaigners holding protests outside the circus in Mangere and Manurewa.
SAFE campaign officer Eliot Pryor says after observing the circus from some time SAFE has proof that Jumbo, the solitary circus elephant, remains confined in her trailer for prolonged periods, swaying from left to right. This behaviour is typically linked to psychological distress.
"Her five-minute routine in the arena appears dull and sombre. The circus had all the other elements of a great family show and could easily stand alone without the elephant," says Eliot.
SAFE - 20 YEAR CAMPAIGN
SAFE has led the campaign against the Whirling Brothers Circus for its use and abuse of animals for many years. Peaceful demonstrations have been a regular feature outside the circus around the country and have reminded circus goers that away from the glitz and glamour of the arena there are animals that are suffering and frustrated.
SAFE's twenty year campaign has successfully educated the public about the reality of circus animal suffering. This has resulted in a change of public attitude towards the use of animals for so-called entertainment. During the 1990s New Zealand was home to four touring circuses and hosted many international circuses that brought with them a menagerie of animals. However in 1992 SAFE launched a massive nationwide campaign against the Great International Moscow Circus which had a collection of performing animals including bears on skates. The campaign attracted widespread media attention that resulted in huge losses of ticket sales. The promoters issued lawsuits on anti-circus organisers in an attempt to recover costs with little success. Since then, no international circus with animals has visited New Zealand.
In 1999 SAFE successful freed and rescued two chimpanzee brothers, Buddy and Sonny, who were part of Circus Magic, a New Zealand-based circus. While it took years of battling with the circus owner SAFE finally managed to successfully release both chimps and send them to the world's largest primate sanctuary in Africa. Both chimps now live a life as free and natural as possible. The circus owner agreed to never use exotic animals again. Today, New Zealand is home to only one touring circus with performing animals, including the last remaining exotic animal - Jumbo.
For years Jumbo's life-long handler and owner of Whirling Brothers Circus, Tony Ratcliffe, stated publicly that Jumbo would be retired to a sanctuary or zoo once the circus closed down. When the circus started retiring some of its animals in 2007 Ratcliffe admitted that Jumbo "Would be better off with other elephants" and expressed sadness at the thought of saying goodbye to her. SAFE thought it was finally all over - Jumbo would at last be with her own kind and have space to roam at a sanctuary or zoo. Instead, Jumbo was sold to Loritz Circus and Ratcliffe now works for the circus managing Jumbo.
For over three decades Jumbo has been kept in solitary confinement, denied the company of other elephants. Elephants are extremely gregarious, forming strong social bonds. Scientific research shows that elephants deprived of the company of other elephants suffer from stress and boredom.
Jumbo is deprived of sufficient space and stimulation. Elephants in the wild roam vast distances spending much of their days feeding, bathing, grooming and engaging in social activities. Jumbo is restricted to a trailer or small fenced area.
Loritz Circus - a "sad" circus
The Loritz Circus keeps Jumbo along with miniature ponies, donkeys, a llama and a goat. Their ‘Out of Africa' theme depicts Kenyan performers as natives, and while some of their human circus acts are skilful, their animal acts only serve to demonstrate the way humans dominate and use other animals.
The Loritz Circus performance lasts a little over one hour. SAFE investigators attending the performance noted the circus appeared more "sad" than glamorous. They observed ponies running around the arena urged on by a whip-welding handler. Jumbo's 5-minute routine consists of her walking around, hopping across the arena and climbing up onto a step under the direction of Ratciffe who was observed using a stick. SAFE's campaign officer Sacha Dowell says while the video footage of the performance appears harmless enough closer scrutiny raises serious concerns.
"If you look closely at the footage, the ‘stick' in Ratcliffe's hand has a sharp metal hook on the end which is called a bullhook. If Jumbo miscues what she is suppose to do during the act, it's a prod in the side with the hook," says Sacha. "What does this teach children and adults alike about the way we should be treating animals?"
"Thanks to our investigators, we have documented that Jumbo remains confined in her trailer for prolonged periods and constantly sways left and right. This stereotypic behaviour is a typical sign associated with psychological distress. Jumbo is also tethered by her foot to a short metal chain while in the trailer which must be extremely frustrating for her," says Sacha.
SAFE understands Loritz Circus has invested $300,000 building a new trailer for Jumbo however the actual ‘liveable' space Jumbo has is estimated to be 3 by 5 metres. The rest of the trailer appears to be used for storage for supplies. SAFE has serious doubts about the fate of Jumbo if left in her present condition.
"For over three decades, Jumbo has suffered day in and day out simply to ‘entertain' circus goers for a few minutes during each performance. We have no right to force this majestic animal to be degraded and abused. We must end Jumbo's suffering by freeing her from the Loritz Circus and sending her to a sanctuary," Says Sacha.
The chronology of SAFE's successful circus campaign - 20 years in the making