Posted: 16 November 2011. Updated: 16 March 2013
Anne, Europe’s oldest elephant, removed from the circus after devastating ADI exposé.
In March 2011, a daring ADI investigation exposed the sickening abuse of Anne the elephant and other animals at Bobby Roberts’ Super Circus winter quarters in the UK. The horrific images that ADI caught on film of Anne, chained and being beaten sent shock waves around the world. Within two weeks Anne was removed from the circus. A month later the circus gave up Monty the camel.
Anne was born in the wild in Sri Lanka in 1954 and has been with the Roberts family since she was a baby. ADI has monitored Anne’s life for over twenty years – until 2001 she had elephants Janie and Beverly for company; then they both died suddenly at the winter quarters, leaving Anne alone.
In 2002 we became concerned by her condition and secured a veterinary inspection of Anne and our vet discussed improvements in her care with the Roberts. However they were unwilling to negotiate her release. It seemed that Annie was destined to die alone, crippled with arthritis, living in chains. Until ADI placed a camera in the winter quarters where Anne and the other animals were stored between November and March each year.
Over a period of three and a half weeks in January and February 2011, our field officers recorded activity inside the barn. Incidents captured on film include Anne being hit with a metal pitchfork and kicked around the face and body 48 times; workers hitting and kicking miniature ponies and horses; and spitting in the face of Monty the camel. The disturbing footage also shows Anne constantly chained for the entire period; often by her front and arthritic back legs only able to take one step forward or backwards. Her chains were only changed to different legs twice.
In the past, Bobby Roberts had claimed, “We take good care of her, she is a family pet,” and responded to criticism from ADI and other animal protection groups: “How can they know better than us what is best for her?” Roberts himself was captured on camera kicking Anne on the trunk during the undercover investigation.
The footage and media pressure, which swept around the world and opened the eyes of millions to hidden circus suffering, finally compelled Mr & Mrs Roberts to hand Anne over for retirement.
Anne & Monty Saved!
ADI backed a proposal for Anne to be handed over on a temporary basis to Longleat Safari Park, with the goal of her going to the best place possible for her care, once her health was assessed. It was important to move Anne to a place of safety as quickly as possible.
Anne’s condition has improved enormously in just a few weeks. Her arthritis medication has improved her ability to walk and her activity around the enclosure is getting better and better. She plays in the water in the small pool and dustbathes in a heap of sand, which, together with regular brushing and bathing by keepers, has improved her skin enormously. Anne also now plays with a soccer ball, a tractor tire and pushes a log around. Whereas she was chained to one spot 24 hours a day in the winter quarters, we have been assured that Anne is now only chained for veterinary and skin care – about 30 minutes a day. ADI has visited her at Longleat and have witnessed that Anne’s life has changed immeasurably since she was removed from the circus.
It was acknowledged from the outset that facilities at Longleat were rudimentary – they have not held elephants for over a decade and the building is outdated. Anne has a basic paddock and night quarters shared with a rhino.
Since the relocation, Anne has become a huge attraction at Longleat, with long lines of visitors. The public has donated $565,000 to Longleat so far to Anne’s lifetime care and there has been talk in the media of Longleat becoming a sanctuary for elephants. This would be welcome, but at this time there is a long way to go. Longleat remains a commercial exhibitor of animals. Plans for a new elephant facility have not been published yet and it is unclear whether this will phase out the use of bull hooks to control elephants – the leading sanctuaries (and several zoos) have moved to protected contact because this removes the habit of physical control and intimidation of the animals.
It is also agreed that Anne needs to be assessed and that her future may be best served elsewhere. That is not to say Longleat is not the best short term/emergency location and might, with new facilities and other rescued elephants, provide a good home.
At this time, the ideal location would be ARK2000 in California (home of the first Bolivian lions we rescued) which specializes in the care of rescued circus elephants and which immediately offered ADI a home for Anne for life when we exposed her suffering. Here, she would have the best possible climate for her arthritis, wonderful facilities and space, staff with experience of elephants with her problems, and importantly a chance to have the companionship of other ex-performing elephants. However, it’s a long journey involving road travel and a flight of 12 hours or more, so we would have to be sure that an elderly lady like Anne would be fit for the journey. However, on the positive side, she is a complete survivor and has traveled all of her life.
We will do our best to ensure Anne’s best welfare is secured for the long term, monitoring the options inside and outside Longleat. For now, the sun on her back, a few logs, a shallow pool, a sandpit, and freedom to move must be paradise for her.
A storm of protests has followed the circus on its UK tour, as well as ADI’s circus billboard; Roberts claims his business is down by 99%.
In May, Roberts handed over Monty the camel to a UK wildlife park. This means that Bobby Roberts’ Super Circus is now wild animal free but the ponies remain.
Meanwhile, our legal team is currently working on potential criminal prosecutions under the UK’s Animal Welfare Act 2006. ADI is urgently appealing for funds for the prosecution.