Calls for an investigation are mounting as a heart wrenching video gains attention online. It shows an aged circus elephant drowning in a river, while her owner’s brother jumps and cavorts on her as she helplessly flails under water and dies.
The ill-fated 48-year-old circus elephant, Madi, was a star attraction at Daniel Renz’s traveling show, Universal Circus Renz. The German circus was on tour in Estonia when this incident occurred in early June. Bystanders captured the entire event on video.
It’s clear from the footage that Madi was old and frail. According to animal rights activist group Pro Wildlife, Madi was too old and too frail to keep touring with this circus, a fact they reportedly told Renz previously.
Madi apparently had been taken to a river in the town of Narva, Estonia, for a bath. In the video, Madi at first appears to be enjoying the water, flipping it up across her back with her trunk. Her joy quickly evaporates, however, when she loses her footing and falls into the water onto her side.
The next few harrowing minutes of video show a man identified as Rene Renz, brother of owner Daniel Renz, immediately leaping upon Madi’s submerged body. He perches on her, alternately standing and jumping on Madi’s side. He even dives off her flank into the water and then climbs back on for more hijinks.
The man makes no obvious effort to help her regain her feet or to lift her head or trunk high enough to allow her to breathe. He makes no pleas for assistance. Indeed, it would appear that his sitting, standing and jumping on Madi likely made it impossible for her to right herself and stand up.
No help arrives, despite a number of people watching from the riverbank. Within minutes, Madi drifts further into deeper water and dies. A collection of bystanders pulls her body to shore, where the man identified as Renz leaps upon her yet again. Later, photos show that heavy machinery lifted her body into a dump truck and hauled Madi away.
An abbreviated video showing critical moments of this incident is below. Be warned, this is graphic and appalling footage:
Prior to Madi’s death, at least four complaints were filed asking Estonian officials to investigate allegations that she suffered from abuse and ill-treatment at the hands of the Renz circus. While the Renz circus was in the town of Talinn, protestors claimed Madi had been punched. During her stay in Talinn, Madi appeared “old and weary“¯ according to the director of the Talinn Zoo.
Other concerns may prompt investigation of this heartbreaking incident as well. There are reports that Madi was wild-born. Estonia and Germany are signatories to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which would presumably make the Renz family’s use of a wild-born Indian elephant a violation of the CITES prohibition on using endangered or threatened species in circuses.
The Estonian press reports that veterinary officials conducted an inspection of Madi’s living conditions and health on May 17. They determined she was healthy and well fed, and there were no signs of physical abuse.¯
The veterinarian who examined Madi’s body determined she died of heart failure.
According to the Estonian press, a “61-year-old animal tamer” has been fined 400 euros (about $520) for “mistreatment.” At this point, local authorities are not pursuing criminal charges.
The full 47-minute video can be seen here, for those who want to judge the incident for themselves:
Other videos on YouTube show Madi during a Universal Circus Renz performance and interacting with the public at some sort of outdoor appearance. In this latter video, Madi very obviously does not want to be put back into the big truck used to haul her around.
Madi’s body was buried in a forest near a town called Auvere. So ended the sad life of an old and weary German circus elephant.
When the circus comes to town, remember Madi. It may be easy for some to dismiss this situation as having happened in Estonia, not the United States. But the plight of circus elephants is a worldwide embarrassment, even in the U.S.A. Be mindful of the entertainment you choose to support with your dollars.
Elephants can’t tell you how the circus treats them. In this case, though, the doomed Madi shows you. The video stands as a frank and sobering indictment of the “entertainers”¯ who cared so little for this elephant that she was allowed to die slowly, choking in a river, while bystanders watched and laughed.