For the last six months, former circus elephant Jumbo has been living a much-improved life at Franklin Zoo. SAFE director Anthony Terry and campaign director Hans Kriek recently visited Jumbo to check on her progress.

Jumbo's miserable circus life ended in November last year when the owner of Loritz circus suddenly decided to relinquish responsibility for Jumbo's (possibly costly) retirement by signing her over to the SPCA.

Jumbo's life of confinement to her trailer ended when she was transferred to Franklin Zoo as her temporary home. Jumbo is provided with a large fenced enclosure where she is able to roll in soil, bathe in mud and enjoy stripping bark and leaves from branches that she is provided daily.

"She is looking so much better, and no longer looks like a sad, dejected animal," says Anthony.

"Jumbo now looks bright and alert, following us along the fence line of her enclosure. She has improved muscle tone and has much better skin."

Jumbo receives lots of human attention to compensate for her continued solitary existence. She receives regular training sessions in order to prepare her for her life-changing trip overseas. Franklin Zoo understands that whilst they can provide Jumbo with quality daily care, they cannot provide her with what she needs most - the company of her own kind. The training Jumbo receives will enable her to travel safely to a sanctuary, likely to be in the United States.

"She will be accustomed to a transport crate, and will be taught how to cooperate during a variety of health checks," says Hans.

"The aim is to get Jumbo on her way to America as soon as she is ready. There are two elephant sanctuaries that would be suitable for Jumbo, as they have other African elephants likely to be compatible with her. Transporting an elephant is a big deal (no pun intended) and a lot of preparation will need to take place before Jumbo is ready to travel."

SAFE is pleased that a number of elephant experts have pledged their support to ensure that Jumbo's journey to America will go as smoothly as possible.

"A potential obstacle that needs to be overcome is financing Jumbo's departure, as this will be a costly affair," says Hans.

"We are confident that between all the relevant parties helping Jumbo, that we can attract the necessary sponsorship and public donations to help Jumbo, as she has a special place in the hearts of many people. After more than 30 years of circus misery, all of New Zealand owes Jumbo a peaceful retirement in the company of her own kind."

June 2010