For decades, wildlife officials and animal activists have been sounding the alarm on the cruel treatment of large game animals, including elephants, in circuses. Some entities have been getting the message including the country of Denmark. Their government is widely expected to institute a ban on wild animals in circuses later this year. However, once a circus shutters its doors, there’s a question about who retains the responsibility for animal care.
Surprisingly, the country itself is stepping up to provide at least part of the answer. A Danish official recently announced that the government is spending $1.6 million to buy the last four circus elephants in their country until more suitable homes can be found for them. The move will allow the animals to find peace and freedom in their retirement from performing life.
About The Danish Elephants
The four recently-purchased elephants are named Ramboline, Lara, Djunga, and Jenny. They were purchased from two separate circuses in the country and are currently being cared for by Animal Protection Services in Denmark. While the agency won’t be their final home, they’re carefully screening applications from those who would like to provide a permanent sanctuary for the hardworking mammals. Finding that permanent home for them is not proving easy.
Part Of A Larger Effort To Protect Circus Animals
Denmark’s move is part of a larger global effort to protect circus animals against activity that’s considered cruel and inhumane. The country’s efforts are highly consistent with laws in more than 40 other countries that have restricted or banned the use of wild animals in zoos and traveling circuses. These locations include the U.K, Scotland, Greece, Austria, Mexico, Israel, India, Lebanon and some parts of the United States.
How Circuses Are Responding
As a response, circuses are looking for alternative ways to entertain large audiences. The widely known Cirque d’ Soleil relies on human acrobats and aerialists. In early 2019, Germany’s Circus Roncalli was the first to use a hologram rather than actual animals in their acts.
One of the most famous circuses on the globe, Ringling Brothers Circus, opted to retire their circus elephants in 2016 in response to public pressure. The circus called it the bittersweet end of a 145-year-old family tradition. About a year later, the institution closed its doors entirely.
What Elephant Retirement Is Like
So, what’s life like for an elephant once it retires? Feld Entertainment, the former owners of the Ringling Brothers Circus, spent $65,000 annually to care for each elephant. When theirs retired they placed them on their own 200-acre elephant sanctuary in Florida where the animals will take part in cancer research activities and will eat up to 200 pounds of food every day. They’ll be observed and cared for by a large team of scientists, elephant behavioral experts and veterinarians, all of whom are dedicated to ensuring their health and well-being.
A European elephant sanctuary, known as Elephant Haven, is opening specifically in response to the need to feed, house, and provide other care for the elephants that were previously housed by zoos and circuses but are now no longer allowed. The organization is currently building an extensive structure that includes heated living quarters, various outdoor habitats, and a minimum of 5 acres of space for each animal. Elephant Haven maintains a strict code of conduct for trainers and daily activities which includes respectful approach by trainers and minimal interactions from curious touring visitors.
In both of these sanctuaries, as in other refuges throughout the world, life will be different for the elephants. It will be quieter, more peaceful, and hopefully closer to their natural habitat than what they had in their working life.
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