In a circus no elephant husbandry in accordance with safety aspects is possible. The pachyderms’ performances in the arena alone require a husbandry system based on dominance exerted by humans. This means a need for life-long dominance over the elephants by the circus trainers. There are, however, numerous examples of the fact that such permanent dominance is impossible. Regularly, humans are harmed or killed by elephants kept in circuses. Since 1980, there is evidence of at least 52 people killed and some 145 people injured (partly severely) by elephants in circuses (Europe/North America). This permanent danger for the people involved cannot be prevented as long as the giant animals are kept in circuses. This incalculable and even less controllable problem of accidents cannot be tolerated. It is not rare for such accidents to result in the elephants being killed.
Effects on the audience:
Circus elephants are almost exclusively animals caught in the wild and not born in the circus or in a zoo. This means that circuses do not contribute to the conservation of the species but just “consume” elephants. In terms of didactics, the commercial presentation of the wild animal that is the elephant is in contradiction to all modern reasons in favour of the keeping by humans of endangered species of wild animals. It is the opinion of Elefanten-Schutz Europa e.V. that this has neither anything to do with education in favour of nature and the environment nor that it raises awareness for environmental problems; thus, it cannot be called “pedagogically valuable”.
In summary, taking into consideration their free-range behaviour, both elephant species cannot be classified as species suitable for being kept and trained in the circus.
Our Documentation 2000 - "Elephants in the circus, lives in chains" (in German) reveals the deficits of elephant husbandry in circuses. The incontrovertible arguments contained in this documentation are meant to help ending the commercial abuse of elephants in circuses as soon as possible.
Legal bases regarding elephants kept in circuses in Germany
As a rule, any husbandry of wild animals such as elephants, rhinoceroses, etc. (zoo, circus, private) has to follow the minimum provisions stipulated in the 1996 “Säugetiergutachten” (expert opinion on mammals, article in German).
- The main provision regarding elephants: a minimum area of 500 m2
In circuses, shortfalls are allowed
Deviations will be approved in circuses since (as a result of the circus lobby’s influence) the work in the arena is regarded as daily behaviour-appropriate occupation. The fact that no behaviour-appropriate elephant care is possible in travelling circuses, can be clearly demonstrated by the above facts. Nevertheless, the law says: if the elephant is “occupied” daily by training and performance, the area the elephant is kept on may even be smaller than the one stipulated in the “Säugetiergutachten”. The corresponding regulations are contained in the so-called “Zirkusleitlinien” of 2000:
- provisions of the “Zirkusleitlinien” regarding the keeping of elephants:
- floor space (chaining): 10 m2 per animal, no inside enclosure specified
- required space of outside paddock (1 to 3 animals): 250 m2¸ plus 20 m2 per further animal
If no daily rehearsals and work in the arena take place (at least 1 hour per day), the elephant is not receiving daily „behaviour-appropriate occupation“, and has to be kept in accordance with the expert opinion on mammals.
Regulations for individual circuses
The exact conditions for the keeping in the respective enterprise (stock of animals/individuals, possibly any prescribed enrichment, duration spent in the open air, etc.) are specified by the so-called “§11-Genehmigung” (approval in accordance with §11 of the Protection of Animals Act). The issuing authority (in most cases at the head quarter) may issue stricter or less strict provisions than those given in the guidelines. Since knowledge regarding the husbandry of exotic animals is rare, so are the provisions issued. The approval may be definite or indefinite. There is hardly any legal possibility to revoke it.
The husbandry conditions are checked at each location of guest performance by the regional veterinary office. Official veterinarians, however, very rarely have sufficient knowledge regarding exotic animals or even specialize in zoo and wild animals.
During the very short controls it is often not possible for the veterinarians to grasp the deficits. Often there is insufficient time for thorough inspections. Since the guidelines are mere recommendations and not of a legally binding character, however, in most cases even deficits revealed by Elefanten-Schutz Europa remain unobjected.
Here you can read more about the case of “Mausi”, a female African circus elephant who died at a German circus, aged 31 (in English)
Also inform yourself about the aspects of elephant husbandry in circuses that ELEFANTEN-SCHUTZ EUROPA e.V.is particularly concerned with!