Retire the elephants, animal rights groups demand | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 16.06.2015
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Retire the elephants, animal rights groups demand

An elephant that escaped from a circus and killed a man over the weekend has been relocated to a German safari park. Calls for a total ban on wild animals in the circus are getting louder.

The 34-year-old female African elephant named Baby that killed a man just a few days ago was moved to Safari Park Stukenbrock in northwestern Germany. A spokeswoman said Baby was being integrated into a herd with three other elephant cows, she appears to be well cared-for and is peaceful.

Placing Baby, who lived alone in the circus for 15 years, with other female elephants is the ideal solution, Stuttgart Zoo director Thomas Kölpin said.

Meanwhile, police are still investigating whether someone forgot to close the animal's cage last weekend, or if she was intentionally released. It's still not clear why Baby attacked and killed a 65-year-old man who was walking in the woods early on Saturday near the town of Buchen in the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg.

The Animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) said Baby had a history of aggression, and that she had in the past injured several other people, including a child.

Farewell to the big top

PETA urges a total ban on using wild animals in the circus. The 50 circus elephants still active in Germany are "ticking time bombs," the organization warned.

Deutschland Ausgebrochener Zirkuselefant tötet Spaziergänger

The elephant named Baby escaped from this travelling circus in Germany

Germany's Animal Protection Agency also urges banning the use of wild animals in the circus. This most recent case is tragic, but not surprising because elephants are dangerous in general, the agency's spokeswoman Lea Schmitz said.

"Wild animals, no matter whether they were bon in the wild or in captivity, are still wild animals and don't belong in a circus," Schmitz told DW. "The risk is incalculable."

Constant transportation - a circus will move venues 40 to 50 times a year - causes stress for the animals, and no circus has species-appropriate accommodation, Schmitz said, adding that circus guidelines are completely outdated and insufficient. Circus performances don't reflect natural elephant behaviour, Schmitz said: "No elephant would volontarily stand on its head." Trainers break the animals' spirits, so they are always fearful of punishment.

Gruelling tours

The US Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, promoted as "the greatest show on earth," announced in March that it would phase out its signature elephant acts and retire the animals by 2018

"Because circuses are constantly traveling from city to city, animals' access to basic necessities such as food, water, and veterinary care is often inadequate," the PETA website explains. "The animals are forced to spend most of their lives in the cramped, barren cages and trailers, where they have only enough room to stand and turn around." That, PETA argues, has "harmful physical and psychological effects on animals."

With an eye on the elephant attack in Buchen, the ministry for consumer protection in the state of Baden Württemberg is also urging the federal government in Berlin to ban elephants from the circus, arguing the animals can't really be safely housed.

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