START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
3,453,635 people care about Animal Welfare

Elephant Who Killed Keeper Was Also a Victim

Elephant Who Killed Keeper Was Also a Victim
  • 1 of 2

For 28 years, Mila the circus elephant was called Jumbo and traveled with New Zealand’s Weber Bros Circus. When her performance days ended, she went to live at the Franklin Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary south of Auckland. On April 25th this year, she fatally crushed her keeper, veterinarian and zoo owner Dr. Helen Schofield.

Two years earlier, Dr. Schofield had been optimistic. The elephant was responding well to her new environment and would one day be able to integrate with other African elephants in a California sanctuary. Schofield said of her:

It is a tremendous privilege to take care of Jumbo (Mila), I feel personally humbled and flattered by the big ear flapping purrs she gives me as a greeting when I return to see her from other activities in the sanctuary. She is so affectionate and responsive. It will be a joyful day to see her develop friends of the elephant kind in the future. This is a short way off now.

On the day she was killed, Dr. Schofield had gone back into Mila’s enclosure to calm her after the shock of brushing her trunk against an electric fence. The elephant charged. Dr. Schofield ran but tripped before she reached the exit. Mila wrapped the vet in her trunk and crushed her.

The elephant’s former owner, Tony Ratcliffe, claims the problems began when the Loritz Circus bought her and then:

…dumped her on the SPCA who held her standing in her own faeces, urine and hay for three days until they called me to help. I got that situation resurrected and took her to the zoo that didn’t want me. Then they rang and said we need your help to get her out of the trailer. Now I have offered help again – they’ve got no handler that can get her out and do anything with her – I don’t even know if I can do anything with her because they have been messing with her.

  • 1 of 2

Read more: , , , , ,

Photo of baby circus elephant in training from Wikimedia Commons; photo of African elephant from alex.coles via Flickr Creative Commons

quick poll

vote now!

Loading poll...

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it


+ add your own
6:11AM PDT on Jul 19, 2013

very sad,thank you for sharing

1:52PM PDT on Oct 28, 2012


1:35PM PDT on Oct 28, 2012

animals need their freedom in their natural habitat!
How would a human feel locked in a cage or restricted alien space as in a zoo?

4:48AM PDT on Aug 28, 2012

None of these majestic, sentient wild beings belong in circuses, zoos, water parks, or forced to live their lives entertaining people. Elephants are very social, family oriented emotional beings They do belong in their natural environment their homes with their families and friends where they are happiest. No different than us.

The treatment of elephants and other wild animals in captivity ranges in varying degrees of neglect, mistreatment, poor diet, improper medical treatment, loneliness to egregious cruelty, abuse, suffering, misery and downright torture. The irony that treated this way for our "entertainment" does not go unnoticed. It is grotesque, barbaric and indefensible.

Helping an injured animal or one that cannot survive on its own at a dedicated sanctuary may possibly be a best case scenario in certain circumstances, but circuses using animals, zoos, water parks, etc., are anything but that. Every living being has a breaking point. I am sorry for the loss of veterinarian Dr. Helen Schofield.

6:16AM PDT on Jun 11, 2012

6:12AM PDT on Jun 11, 2012

"instead of funnelling money into zoos, money should be redirected to wild animal conservation. For example the money could be better spent:
-Establishing protected reserves
-Funding anti-poaching patrols
-Educating people about wildlife and the need for conservation
-Lobbying for legislation to protect wildlife (from poachers and habitat destruction)

If you visit zoos you are contributing to this suffering. Today's wildlife programmes can give viewers a much greater understanding and appreciation of these animals than zoos ever could. If you truly care about animals and conservation turn on the T.V and make a donation to one of the many wildlife charities working to save animals in the wild."

12:07AM PDT on Jun 11, 2012

Gianna, that's just flat out silly to state. ALL exotics and ALL wild animals in captivity have been abused? I think maybe you've been reading far too many pieces of propaganda from PETA. Why not visit one of the better zoos and check the work they do to make sure endangered species do NOT become extinct? Check out the habitats and conditions before making such a broad and unfactual remark.

2:37PM PDT on Jun 10, 2012

It is the circus owner and trainers who should be killed off. They were the ones that took her from her proper environment and forced her to do stupid tricks for uncaring Humans, and imprisoned her in appalling conditions.With any luck they will have short miserable lonely lives. This elephant should be with her own kind NOW. She probably hates humans .I don't blame her.I hate circus people who use animals, and humans who abuse other animals by eating them. The Human species is rotten to the core.The sooner it becomes extinct ,the better.

7:45AM PDT on Jun 10, 2012

Darn tootin he was a victim and the most important of victims! Reason for that is, is that these are wild animals in that they should NEVER be restrained in any way for ANY reason. Not to mention that Elephants are long distant animals who need plenty of space , space that NO zoo, circus or any other human venue affords them!

7:45AM PDT on Jun 10, 2012

Darn tootin he was a victim and the most important of victims! Reason for that is, is that these are wild animals in that they should NEVER be restrained in any way for ANY reason. Not to mention that Elephants are long distant animals who need plenty of space , space that NO zoo, circus or any other human venue affords them!

add your comment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

just a little time and effort . and much was accomplished . well done Marvel . and you notice , Mom are…

I thank both the homeowner and this man, Steve, for rescuing this Copperhead! Snakes are beautiful and…

I love snakes. People have a tendency to not care about animals that aren't warm and fuzzy. Great example…

meet our writers

Kathleen J. Kathleen is currently the Activism Coordinator at Care2. more
Story idea? Want to blog? Contact the editors!
ads keep care2 free

more from causes

Animal Welfare

Causes Canada

Causes UK


Civil Rights


Endangered Wildlife

Environment & Wildlife

Global Development

Global Warming

Health Policy

Human Rights

LGBT rights


Real Food

Trailblazers For Good

Women's Rights

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.