Nowhere in Europe for older elephants

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2007:
The successful relocation of numerous U.S. zoo elephants to
the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary in California and the
Elephant Sanctuary at Hohenwald, Tennessee have repeatedly given
hope to European activists that elephants might be relocated from
many facilities that are much smaller, older, and bleaker than any
but the worst in the U.S.–but reality is that land is so scarce and
costly in most of Europe that there are no European sanctuaries for
elephants, nor for any other species needing much space.
Sanctuaries for former dancing bears operate in Bulgaria,
Romania, and Greece, and one sanctuary for great apes exists in
Spain. Otherwise, animal welfare organizations that accept animals
who are retired from zoos, circuses, and other captive venues
usually have to look abroad to find sanctuary care–like the Austrian
organization Vier Pfoten, soon to open a sanctuary called Lionsrock
in South Africa. It will chiefly house African lions.


Several recent incidents have spotlighted the lack of
suitable locations in Europe for aging elephants.
Sunday Telegraph Bucharest correspondent Carmiola Ionescu in
July 2007 investigated reports circulating in Romania since March
2007 that the Baneasa Zoo elephant Gaya, 48, did not die in October
2006 from “old age,” as the zoo initially claimed.
Gaya had refused to enter her cramped winter quarters.
According to zoo staff, “Veterinarian Codrut Visoiu, along with
department chief George Albu, made the decision to bring police dogs
inside in order to make Gaya enter the winter shelter. They let [zoo
director] Anca Oprea know about their intentions. ”
Wrote Ionescu, “Europe’s oldest elephant panicked, fell,
and broke a leg, after being bitten a number of times by the dogs.
Eyewitnesses said the female elephant, who weighed four tons, was
too heavy to lift and was left on the ground for two days by zoo
staff, who did not know what else to do.” She finally suffocated
from her own weight.
Also in July, the East Ayrshire Council barred the Bobby
Roberts Super Circus elephant Anne from entering the circus
performance arena. Anne, 54, suffers from arthritis, and has not
actually performed in years, but remains on the road because the
circus has nowhere else to keep her. Her only work is posing for
photographs.
Activists from several nations in September 2007 began an
e-mail campaign on behalf of the Kaliningrad Zoo elephant Pregolja,
who has allegedly spent all 37 years of her life in the same small
concrete pen where she was born, alone since the death of her mother
in 2000. Mated to her father, she birthed five calves, but soon
killed four of them. The fifth was sold to a circus.
Because there is nowhere closer to send Pregolija, the
campaign seeks to relocate Pregolja to The Elephant Sanctuary in
Hohnewald.

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