Events of the last 24 hours have forced us to once again think about the problems associated with exhibiting elephants in zoos.
A piece I wrote for The Conversation about elephants at Melbourne Zoo was published yesterday. The article questions how far Melbourne Zoo had come over the past 150 years given that many urban zoos around the world are closing their elephant exhibits, yet Melbourne is breeding elephants and also proudly using an elephant image to publicise their birthday celebrations. When I think of elephants in zoos my mind immediatley goes to Victorian times, not 2012.
Just hours after my piece was published news came from New Zealand that a keeper at Franklin Zoo in New Zealand had been crushed to death by their resident elephant.
The New Zealand tragedy is all the more upsetting because the zoo was trying to work with an elephant who was apparently psychologically damaged by many decades as a circus elephants.
Offering a home to an ex-circus elephant is a highly commendable act. Western Plain Zoo in Dubbo is home to ex-circus elephant Arna. Arna went to live there after killing a temporary handler working with her at the circus.
I will watch with great interest as more news emerges from New Zealand. In particular I hope that the elephant in question will still have a home and that this event will not deter other zoos or sanctuaries from offering a home to other spent circus elephants