The Campaign to Free Mila

It took over three decades of campaigning, determination and wishful thinking, but after 32 years of being cruelly confined inside the back of a truck, Jumbo was released from the circus.

SAFE began its campaign to free Jumbo soon after she began performing in New Zealand, however it was 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 were a regular feature outside the circus and reminded circus goers that away from the glitz and glamour of the arena there are animals that are suffering and frustrated.

SAFE campaign director Hans Kriek says the release of Jumbo from the circus was a significant milestone.

"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.

In November 2013 Mila (previously called Jumbo), at the age of 41, was transferred to a new home with other elephants at San Diego Zoo.



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SAFE's campaign frees exotic animals from circuses

New Zealand is home to four touring circuses and hosts many international circuses that bring their menagerie of performing animals with them.

SAFE launches a massive nationwide campaign against the Great International Moscow Circus, which has a collection of performing animals including bears on skates. The campaign attracts widespread media attention that results in huge losses of ticket sales. The promoters issue 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.

A SAFE investigation of the circus leads to a MAF complaint over animal welfare neglect, which results in the imposition of tougher conditions to improve the standard of care of the animals.

Wellington City Council bans circuses with exotic animals after SAFE members lobby councillors.

SAFE successfully frees and rescues 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 manages to successfully release both chimps and send them to the world's largest primate sanctuary in Africa. Both chimps provided with a life as free and natural as possible. The circus owner agrees to never use exotic animals again. As a result, New Zealand is home to only one touring circus with performing animals, including the last remaining exotic animal - Jumbo.

Dunedin City Council bans circuses with exotic animals after SAFE members and the community petition the council.

SAFE lodges a submission to Nelson City Council seeking a ban of circuses from council-owned property. The council votes in a ban.

SAFE launches a national public submission campaign to amend the law to prohibit circuses with performing animals. MAF ignores calls to ban exotic animals.

SAFE re- ignites the Free Jumbo campaign against Whirling Bros Circus with the aim of keeping intense pressure on the circus.

SAFE mounts over 40 protests against the circus.

SAFE continues to challenge the circus and gains widespread media attention.

SAFE lodges complaint with MAF after SAFE investigators carefully monitor the circus and determine it is not complying with minimum welfare standards. Protests continue.

Whirling Bros Circus owner Tony Ratcliffe sells Jumbo to the Loritz Circus after promising to retire Jumbo.

SAFE opens up negotiations with the Loritz Circus to relocate Jumbo to a sanctuary and begins researching potential elephant sanctuaries.

SAFE volunteers continue to protest outside the circus and gain positive media stories about what is wrong with circuses.

SAFE mounts its largest level of campaign activity, staging over 35 protests against the circus in six months.

Launches Animals on Show, a world-class humane education resource for secondary schools, which highlights the plight of animals used in the entertainment industry.

SAFE's campaign team begins discussions on Jumbo's release with MAF officials, SPCA, elephant experts and the circus. Jumbo is released to Franklin Zoo.

Jumbo is renamed Mila.

Mila is transferred to San Diego Zoo where she will live permanently with other female African elephants.

SAFE lobbies for a ban in law on keeping exotic animals in circuses. 

Mila sadly passes away at San Diego Zoo.