Media, Entertainment and Sport

Denmark’s last circus elephants are retiring – here's what might take their place

Members of Joy Gartner Family and their elephants perform during the opening ceremony of the 43rd Monte-Carlo International Circus Festival in Monaco, 17 January 2019. REUTERS/Sebastien Nogier/Pool - RC1B28A37ED0

'Reports of animal cruelty and poor living conditions have brought the welfare of performing animals to both public and political attention.' Image: REUTERS/Sebastien Nogier/Pool

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Denmark’s government invested in the country’s final four performing elephants so they can enjoy their retirement years in peace.

Ex-big top stars Ramboline, Lara, Djunga and Jenny were part of a $1.6 million rescue deal, according to a BBC report, before a national ban on travelling circuses using wild animals comes into force later this year. Animal Protection Denmark will take care of the animals, before they travel to their new home at Knuthenborg Safari Park, in the south east of the country.

Animal ban

Legislation banning the use of wild animals in circuses and travelling shows is already in place in many countries. In 2009, Bolivia became one of the first countries to ban all animals in circuses. While in Europe, countries like Greece and Cyprus have outlawed the use of wild animals – such as elephants, lions, and bears – in shows.

New Jersey became the first US state to outlaw the practice in late 2018, closely followed by Hawaii, but laws differ from state to state. Recently, a bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives that would restrict the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses.

Reports of animal cruelty and poor living conditions have brought the welfare of performing animals to both public and political attention. PETA points to some of the issues that circus animals are forced to endure: constant confinement in cages as they are transported from place to place, and whips, muzzles or electric prods sometimes used to train wild beasts to perform in the ring.

US views of animal treatment in circuses
Almost a third of survey respondents were very concerned about the treatment of animals in circuses.
Almost one-third of survey respondents were very concerned about the treatment of animals in circuses. Image: Statista

While animals were once a mainstay of circus acts, the chart shows a shift in sentiment toward their incorporation. More than two-thirds of people surveyed in the US expressed concern about animal treatment in circuses.

Even so, some countries are behind the curve. The UK announced a bill earlier this year that bans travelling shows from using wild animals in the circus ring.

Such legislation doesn’t mean the end of the big top experience though. One enterprising ringmaster has come up with a technical solution to keep wild beasts in the ring.

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German show Circus Roncali uses holograms of elephants and tigers, putting a new twist on the traditional experience. Acts involving live animals began disappearing from the show’s lineup in the 1990s, and today, none remain. In their place, 11 projectors create giant 3D holograms of horses, elephants and fish.

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution takes hold, it’s easy to see how other technologies could help create an exciting and cruelty-free experience.

In this way, using holograms is one way to ensure the show goes on, and unlike the four elephants rescued by the Danish government, there is no need to worry about the cost of their retirement.

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