Anne, a 58-year-old Asian elephant, has not had a good life. After being rescued from a horrifically abusive past as a circus performer there was hope her future would include peace and the companionship of other elephants, but it now appears that won’t be the case.
An undercover investigation conducted by Animal Defenders International (ADI) in 2011 exposed a sickening level of cruelty inflicted on Anne and other animals at the Bobby Roberts Super Circus in the UK. Video footage of the brutal beatings she was forced to endure while shackled in place caused an uproar and helped raised awareness about the plight of wild animals who are used in entertainment.
Following the release of the footage, the circus signed custody of Anne over to Longleat Safari Park while law enforcement dealt with her owners, who were later charged with animal cruelty. Even though Longleat isn’t a rescue or sanctuary, ADI supported the move at the time because getting her out of her current situation as quickly as possible was critical and because the organization believed it would be a temporary haven for Anne while they worked to find a permanent home for her.
Anne’s story, meanwhile, had broken hearts around the world and donations poured in to help with her care and rehabilitation. According to ADI, the public donated an estimated ￡345,000 ($594,000 USD) to support her.
Longleat had promised to build a sanctuary that could house four elephants, which would have provided a place for other rescue elephants and for Anne to have companionship, which experts believe is an essential need for these highly intelligent and social animals.
However, concerns continued to be raised about her care and future. Longleat was criticized for allowing the public to view her, instead of focusing on her recovery away from prying eyes, and for its continued use of a bullhook, which her advocates worried would remind her of her past abuse and pointed out that ruling by fear is not an accepted practice at leading facilities, which use protected contact instead.
The park is now drawing more criticism for backtracking on its plan to build a sanctuary with an announcement that it will be starting work on a facility for Anne, but that she will remain alone for the remainder of her days.
“Although we welcome any improvement in Anne’s accommodation and environment, we hope that by the time it is completed it will not be too late for Anne. It is tragic that three years have passed and now it is being confirmed that Anne will remain alone for the rest of her life. The chance of giving Anne companionship appears to have been missed,” said ADI Chief Executive Jan Creamer.
The park claims that this is in her best interest and that introducing her to another elephant at this point could be “detrimental to her health and wellbeing.” However, introductions of elephants who have been kept in solitary for long periods have been made before and have gone well, with one of the most recent examples being Mila, who was introduced to others at the San Diego Zoo after spending 37 years alone.
While Anne will likely remain in solitary as Longleat profits off of her presence there, her story is yet another reminder of the numerous reasons to avoid establishments that keep elephants in captivity. Fortunately, the UK has at least promised wild animals, including elephants, will be banned in circuses by 2015.
Please sign and share the petition demanding an immediate transfer for Anne to a suitable sanctuary with the necessary funds.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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