Mila the ex-circus elephant has died

“My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.”

- Richard Adams


The staff at SAFE are very sad to hear the news that Mila the ex-circus elephant has died at San Diego Zoo.

The zoo is performing an autopsy to determine the cause. Mila, formerly known as Jumbo, had lived at San Diego Zoo since 2013, after being transferred from Franklin Zoo in New Zealand. Prior to that Mila had spent over 30 years in a circus.

SAFE and animal lovers around the country campaigned for over two decades to free Mila from her miserable circus life. Peaceful demonstrations were a regular feature outside the circus around the country, reminding circus goers that away from the seeming glitz and glamour of the arena there was suffering and frustration for the animals.

SAFE's campaign resulted in a change of attitude towards the use of animals for entertainment. During the 1990s New Zealand was home to four touring circuses and hosted many international circuses that brought with them a menagerie of animals. Now, no circus holds any exotic animals.

After 32 years of being cruelly confined inside the back of a truck and travelling around the country, Mila was finally released from the circus.

SAFE Ambassador Hans Kriek says the release of Mila from the circus was a significant milestone, as it not only freed Mila but also paved the way to help other animals too.

“Mila’s death is a very sad end to what was a very sad life. SAFE at least takes some comfort that she spent the last few years of her life in the company of other elephants at the zoo, company that she was deprived of for most of her life. We hope that animals will never be placed in this position again, especially for the entertainment of people. Mila’s death is sadly yet another example of a captive elephant dying well before her natural lifespan. Proof that these animals should never be kept in captivity.”

Mila was born in the wild in 1973, but at nine months she was taken into captivity at London Zoo. She ended up at Honolulu Zoo for a brief period before she was purchased by a circus and brought to New Zealand in 1978. 

Mila spent 37 years of her life alone, before being placed with other elephants when she moved to San Diego Zoo. She was 44 when she died. Wild elephants can live for 70 years.

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16 March 2017