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Animal Defenders International

Former Great British Circus elephants escape trainer in Copenhagen

Posted: 13 September 2012. Updated: 7 April 2014


Two elephants that ADI caught on film being abused whilst at the Great British Circus, and now with Circus Benneweis, yesterday escaped their trainer in rush-hour traffic in Copenhagen. They were returned to the circus site with the assistance of a police road block. Just months ago an elephant escaped from a circus in Ireland, with both incidents highlighting how inappropriate it is to keep wild animals such as these in travelling circuses.

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive said: “This is another prime example as to why wild animals do not belong in travelling circuses, as it clearly demonstrates how public safety, and that of the animals, can so easily be compromised. Fortunately no one was harmed this time, but the situation could have so easily been very different. The keepers had clearly lost control of the elephants. Given that there are relatively few animals in travelling circuses these incidents are shockingly common."

The two elephants – Sonja and Vana Mana (and a third elephant Delhi) – were at the centre of a shocking ADI undercover investigation in 2009 that led to a public consultation with a resounding 94.5% supporting a ban on wild animal acts and the then Labour Government promising a ban.

Elephants were hit in the face with a metal elephant hook, a broom and a pitchfork and the frightened animals retreated and cried out when struck. They were also kept chained and barely able to move for up to 11 hours a day, and displayed disturbed, abnormal behaviour. Prior to the investigation, the circus were claiming the elephants were not even chained, but the Great British Circus admitted that they used negative reinforcement to control the animals.

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Jan Creamer: "It is shocking that it is now three years since the ADI investigation of the Great British Circus exposed such horrific abuse and a year since we exposed the abuse of Anne the elephant at Bobby Roberts Circus – yet there is still no timetable for the long promised British ban on wild animals in circuses. Yesterday’s incident in Copenhagen is another example of why action is needed so urgently.”

The UK Government announced a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses in March, but continues to pursue a system of licensing, at a cost of a quarter of a million pounds.


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