Free Jumbo

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Boycott circus, say activists – and school principal agrees.

Local animal rights activists are calling for a boycott of this week’s Loritz Circus in Queenstown – claiming the circus elephant is “deprived”.

National animal advocacy group Save Animals From Exploitation will stage a protest against the treatment of Jumbo, a 35-year-old African elephant.

Protesters will gather on Robins Road outside the Queenstown Primary circus venue on Saturday between 12.45-2pm.

Jumbo’s inclusion in the show has also shocked Queenstown Primary principal John Western, who doesn’t support an elephant being used as a circus act.

SAFE claims the Loritz Circus is “breaking the law by ignoring animal welfare legislation”, campaign officer Sacha Dowell says.

“SAFE investigations continue to show that Jumbo is often deprived of the daily eight-hour exercise period which is a legal requirement.”

Local SAFE member Ruth de Reus says Jumbo is tethered in her 3 x 5-metre trailer and spends much of her time confined there while the circus is on the road.

Dowell adds she’s kept in “solitary confinement … instead of being retired to a sanctuary where she could socialise and bond with other elephants”.

Local animal welfare activist Karen Swaine is also worried about the “message we are sending to our kids” by supporting a circus with animals.

“Something I thought was outdated is coming to our back door and people will be paying to see an elephant, thinking ‘neat, I get to see an elephant’ – without realising how she’s kept.”

Loritz marketing boss Paul Johnson refutes SAFE’s claims, saying Jumbo’s handling and care routines have “completely changed” in recent years.

The circus has spent $300,000 on a “state-of-the-art” trailer that becomes her enclosure at each destination.

Johnson claims the trailer “exceeds” government requirements – featuring sprinklers, a wash-down facility that keeps the trailer clean, plus a “modern air suspension system”.

“Very seldom is she tethered. It’s probably a better overall environment than being in a zoo or an enclosure,” he says.

Meanwhile, Western says his school didn’t know Jumbo was part of the circus – he expected it to be the same as last year’s show, when organisers assured him no animals would be used.

“It certainly was not intentional on the school’s part in any way to condone or allow this.”

Western won’t go to the show: “I don’t believe that animals should be part of circuses, that’s my own personal opinion.”