What does Mila's future hold?

Since the sad death of zookeeper Helen Schofield last week, who was fatally injured by Mila the ex-circus elephant, there has been a lot of discussion in the media about Mila's future. Currently Mila is under the care of keepers from Auckland Zoo drafted in to help staff at Franklin Zoo.

SAFE's Executive Director, Hans Kriek, spoke to Dr Schofield about Mila only the day before her death. "Helen had been full of enthusiasm for Mila's future, making plans to send her to live with other elephants in a specialist US sanctuary. Helen had been crate-training her: teaching her to walk into a crate without fear so that she'd be comfortable traveling. She said the training had gone well, and Mila was ready to be transported overseas. SAFE is committed to ensuring that still happens."

Elephant experts from around the world have joined in the calls for Mila to be transported to the US sanctuary and have stated that nothing positive can come from Mila being euthanised. Talking on TV One, Peter Stroud, an Elephant Behaviour and Welfare Expert who has been involved in Mila's care since she retired to the circus two years ago said, "No blame can be apportioned to the elephant - it's an animal, it does what animals do and understands the world as an elephant would. It is not a human being. Mila has had a very difficult life, alone since the age of four".

Mr Stroud said he hoped that Mila would still be send to the US sanctuary. "It would be a very fitting memorial to the work of Dr Schofield," he said.

Franklin Zoo have since assured the public that they do not intend to euthanise Mila and are committed to her care. The US sanctuary, Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) have also said Mila is welcome at the sanctuary and have been looking at fundraising to get her there as soon as possible.

Mr Kriek says "Mila was incarcerated at the circus for over 30 years, completely alone. At the sanctuary she will be able to roam in large grassy areas, have access to a 20,000 square-foot barn with heated floors, and an elephant Jacuzzi. Most importantly she will finally be part of an adoptive elephant family she has no doubt longed for."

SAFE will continue to talk to other welfare groups about Mila's future and will update as soon as there are plans.

30 April 2012