Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Anne the Last British Circus Elephant - What Next?

Elephants at Whipsnade

I was absolutely delighted to learn yesterday that ‘Anne’ the elephant was to be relocated. To Whipsnade Zoo it would seem as they were quick to step in and offer a home. The thoughts that ran through my head at the time were. Excellent facilities, highly experienced caring staff, a good age range mix of companion elephants, highly professional veterinary back up and more. Ideal it would seem.

Now it seems unlikely. Now I will say at this point that I have nothing especially against Longleat Safari Park, or its facilities, its expertise or its staff. They used to have elephants… they don’t any longer. Longleat have now apparently stepped in (and I take all the following information from the Daily Mail for Wednesday March 30, 2011) and offered a home.

And on Sunday, secret discussions between the owners and officials from the 900-acre wildlife park began

Secret discussions? Why? Why secret? Does this mean that some sort of financial arrangement is being entered into? This animal, ‘Anne’ should be confiscated. As Whipsnade had already offered a home…and Longleat already knew that so why had they stepped in? Call me a cynic but is it just possibly because there would be a huge spike in visitor numbers over Easter if Longleat were to acquire her? I have no doubt whatsoever that Longleat are in a position to offer a good home and would pull out all stops to ensure she gets one but I do question as to whether it is the right move.

So where do we think she is going to go?

Jan Creamer, of the ADI, said that she would be happy for Anne to be rehomed in a safari park or sanctuary as long as she could be in the company of other elephants.
‘We will be delighted if Anne can be moved quickly to somewhere with the facilities for vets and other specialists to improve her health.
‘However, this should be temporary while she is assessed for a permanent home where she can be with other elephants,’ she added.”

Please note that statement “rehomed in a safari park or sanctuary”. There is no way that Ms Creamer is going to entertain a Zoo. Zoos, Good zoos are the real sanctuaries. It is just a name thing. It would “be temporary while she is assessed for a permanent home” strongly suggests to me that Longleat would be her choice irrespective of the fact that she said “as long as she could be in the company of other elephants” because Longleat have already stated that they would build a modern elephant house and introduce other rescued elephants (from where?).

The RSPCA too “The RSPCA also gave its support. It said: ‘We visited Anne with a vet to examine her and talk to her owners about the possibility of living out her last days in a sanctuary or safari park.
‘In the meantime we will be monitoring Anne to ensure her safety and wellbeing.’”

There again, no mention of the word ‘zoo’ – “out her last days in a sanctuary or safari park.”

Then there is CAPS “ Liz Tyson, of the Captive Animals’ Protection Society, added: ‘Whilst we are wholly opposed to the keeping of any animal in captivity, we recognise that, under these very specific circumstances, a safari park might offer her some opportunities that she currently does not have, such as the ability to form part of a social group and a wider area in which to roam.’”

Again no mention of the word zoo, it is “safari park” once again. Not that it has any great bearing but I wonder if they know that the Safari Park concept including Longleat was dreamed up by Jimmy Chipperfield of the Chipperfield circus empire. Actually CAPS is caught in a bit of a corner on this one as on their website it is stated:

"If Anne were to be sent to a safari park, we would insist that she is given the opportunity to live out her days away from the public gaze and, as such, should be provided with a true “retirement”. This should be adhered to even if not in keeping with the normal practices of the zoo; the emphasis must be on making her last years as stress-free and fulfilled as possible" (Wow...the zoo word)

Now that IS cruel. An animal that has spent her entire life in the company of people is to be moved out of "public gaze". It would, I am sure not fit in too well with Longleat's plans either.

Back to the Daily Mail:

And where does the 900 acres come in? Mentioned a few times in the article to conjure up visions of ‘Anne’ trundling along happily in all this space. It is not going to happen. ‘Anne’ is arthritic, space in terms of area does not come into it. It is quality of space, caring and companionship.

There is another statement which greatly disturbs me “Despite a generous offer from Whipsnade to provide a home for the elephant, experts felt that her old age and arthritis meant that it would not be in her best interests to be in the zoo’s herd with young calves.”

Balderdash! Just who are these ‘experts’? This is yet again a small group of people with a particular anti-zoo agenda in mind. They know, if they would admit it, that in actual fact the very best thing for ‘Anne’ is for her to join a group of mixed age animals. It would give her a new lease of life.

I don’t profess to be an expert on anything. I know a little bit about a lot of things and a bit more about some than others. I have worked hands on and had extremely good relationships with a number of elephants. I have spent hours with them, slept with them, known every inch of their vast bodies. I have loved and trusted them and had the same in return. If that gives me any tiny bit of expertise at all then I say that Whipsnade would be my first choice and I feel sure that if ‘Anne’ had any say in the matter she would agree with me.

The Video (contains scenes of violence)


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  1. If the intentions of CAPS, ADI and the rest of these animal protection presure groups are real, which I doubt, then what purpose does this change of heart bring? Given that at Glasgow Zoo, helping to rescue and rehome "Bongo" an aged, gravely ill Asiatic Black Bear with the help from Born Free & Bridgett Bardot Foundation. The zoo having to fork out some £22k for this rescue from an Italian zoo. Some two weeks later both pressure groups then stuck the knife in the back of Glasgow Zoo with many insideous, slanderous and vexatious remarks...The zoo was noted for its excellence in bears and its large enclosures along with its big cats.
    The moral here...just be very careful here as not all that glitters is gold!
    The reasons may seem good and worthy but what is the REAL reason for these pressure groups to now applaud such places as zoos and safari parks?...

  2. I don't belong to a pressure group. But I do know this after 15 years of reading, researching and traveling in connection with elephants - they need a climate more suited to their genes. Keeping them indoors on cold cement floors, or even heated ones, is really hard on the pads. Zoos depend on these barns and the elephants suffer. With Anne's obvious arthritis, perhaps osteomyelitis, she needs a milder climate with less severe winters. PAWS in CA has made an open offer to take her. There she will have ponds and older elephants to befriend.

    I understood the main objection to Whipsnade was the youngsters might be too much for her, and I have seen older elephants in Thailand uninterested in 'kids.' Mine is the weather.

    As far as zoos go, besides space limitations for large animals, it is the constant obnoxious noise that would make me go beserk. Screaming, whining kids must be just grating on their nerves. You would have to tie me in chains to not go after humans to get them out of my space and leave me alone.

    At sanctuaries, the true sense of the word, there is peace and quiet to have some kind of retirement after decades of being on display for a few minutes of some human's entertainment and a lifetime of torment.