Tuesday 20 February 2018 | 9

One Voice’s fight for Samba

One Voice’s fight for Samba

Mis à jour le 22 May 2019

For the last 13 years, One Voice has been fighting for the release of the elephant Samba (or Tania), who after being captured in Kenya, was incessantly exploited in circuses. Through tireless advocacy work, One Voice hopes to grant her the dignity she deserves with a peaceful retirement.

Hr blog

2002: A sad encounter

Today Samba is 15 years old. Yet, she was just a baby when poachers captured her in Kenya after killing her parents. Soon after, she was sold to a trainer who used a whip to force her into submission: a One Voice investigator captured images of her being made to walk on her knees and pretending to die at the sound of a gunshot. The images are now being used as part of a campaign against exploiting animals in circuses.

2003: Abuse and crying children

On May 20, 2003, Samba's trainer physically punished her for refusing to fake her own death during a performance in the Gard region of France. Luckily a group of children in the audience begged him to stop and their mother immediately notified One Voice.

On May 23 rd, the association filed a complaint for cruelty, demanded that Samba be withdrawn from the circus and placed in a more suitable location where she could socialize with other elephants. The ministry, the prefecture, and veterinary services all were alerted to her situation. Muriel Arnal wrote to the President of the Republic Jacques Chirac and the minister of Agriculture who claimed that Samba did not appear to be mistreated. In response, One Voice began distributing broadcasting petitions-cards in June.

On September 10, the association organized an assembly in Paris attended by the elephant specialist, Professor Pierre Pfeffer. 40,000 petitions-cards were then delivered to the Department of Ecology. Helmut Pechlaner and Harald Schwammer, veterinarians specializing in elephants, were contacted to provide their objective opinions regarding the unnatural stunts Samba was forced to perform: "(...) such positions could injure joints and intervertebral discs in adult elephants, as well as crack their nails. As for the balance exercises, those can cause mobility issues in the elbow and knee joints." With all of this evidence-based support, One Voice was finally able to launch a press campaign.

2004: Samba becomes Tania

When the circus took on a new name, Samba's name also changed to Tania. At this same time, pressure from the authorities' campaign and public mobilization intenisified.

In January, One Voice published a report on circus elephants, focusing especially on Samba's case. The "Samba kit" which contained posters, badges, flyers was also made available to activists.

In June, One Voice organized a huge demonstration in Marseille in an attempt to challenge the Prefect of Bouches-du-Rhône, where the circus was registered. Animal rights organizations such as GAIA, Animaux en Péril, Association Stéphane Lamart, and important figures such as veterinarian Marie-Claude Bomsel and director/producer Jacques Perrin, were present. Nevertheless, the prefect refused to open discussions with One Voice.

Over the course of the summer, supporters sent out letters to all the representatives and senators of France, several of whom are involved in the departments of Agriculture and Ecology and the Ministry of Justice. Additionally, we contacted all of the mayors who presided over seaside resort towns and informed them of the dire situation animals like Samba faced in circuses. However, One Voice's pleas remained unanswered.

In October, One Voice bought out pages in weekly newspapers and used images from our November investigation to alert the public to Samba's plight.

2005: Things go south for Samba

Dr. John Knight, a veterinary consultant, specialist in animal welfare, and the author of our report "Wellness and safety in circuses," wrote up an extensive report on Samba, concluding three years of research and investigation. His findings indicate that Samaba's vital needs are not being met: she remains completely emaciated and dehydrated. In August, the report was submitted to the Ministry of Ecology and then made public in November.

2006: Samba waits

One Voice's investigators continued to keep track of Samba. Another captive elephant in France named Vicky was released, creating an opportunity to refocus public attention on Samba.

2007: Demonstration in front of Ministry of Ecology

On September 12, Claire Daveu, the Deputy Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Ecology, received Muriel Arnal and Daniel Turner who gave him the 128,000 petition cards that they had collected since the beginning of the campaign. For the occasion, a demonstration was organized outside of the Ministry: 6000 leaflets describing Samba's story were distributed by activists.

2008: The action continues

Information tables were set up in many cities in an effort to raise awareness about animal exploitation in circuses: the campaign slogan read "Do not abaondon Samba."

2010: The Committee's launch

One Voice set up a committee for Samba, and all other enslaved elephants, with the goal of ending elephant exploitation in shows. A chart on elephant sentience (only available in french) was published and disseminated to the public to raise awareness concerning the repercussions of confinement and isolation. In August, a yearlong campaign was launched. Additionally, One Voice led a circle of silence in Paris and sent letters to the Ministry of Ecology and Max Aucante, Samba's trainer, as well as European deputies Lionel Luca, Muriel Marland-Militello, and Perrin Geneviève Gaillard, asking for their support which they willingly granted.

2011: Silent mobilization for Samba

By June 2011, the campaign was in full swing. Lots of letters were sent and the campaign received the support of many members of parliament. Max Aucante, Samba's trainer, could not be tracked down.

In August 2011, another circle of silence was organized for Samba in Strasbourg. It was a huge success and created an opportunity to distribute more petition-cards demanding Samba's release.

2012: Samba situation goes from bad to worse

One Voice attempted to call attention to Samba's plight by publishing booklet that compares a life in the wild versus one in captivity, aimed at children and students. It features unnerving photos captured by our investigator in March: Samba appears very thin and has trouble moving.

2013: The drama

On September 8 th, 2013, Samba escaped from the circus installed in Lizy-sur-Ourcq (77) and accidentally killed a man. While the incident was tragic, it is not uncommon or surprising for animals to act out violently when they are desparate: her living conditions are a far cry from meeting minimal welfare and safety criteria. Soon after, One Voice finds a sanctuary in the wild for Samba.

2014: A disappointing trial

However the court trial following the episode spared Samba but did not liberate her, meaning her trainer will continue to exploit her. Soon after, One Voice published a report (only available in french) regarding the fate of circus elephants. Despite the fact that she has performed in 8 allegedly reputable locations across France, none of the detention facilities meet the bare minimum for welfare standards. This of course means that both the safety of the elephants and the audience are still at stake.

One Voice will not give up the fight. Our investigators still keep track of Samba and our activists continue to distribute the booklet telling her story.

Hr blog

In the subject

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Comments 9

I accept that publication of my comments is subject to the code of conduct.

anne | Friday 28 July 2023

Il est spécialement choquant de constater que les gouvernements de France se succèdent mais restent tous impassibles devant la souffrance de cette éléphante mais aussi de tous les animaux. N'y a-t-il pas une "autorité" qui comprendra?

docteurphilphlout | Thursday 27 July 2023

un cirque, ça trompe énormément...

gigi | Tuesday 21 April 2020


Nanou7620 | Monday 20 April 2020

Stop emmenez-la dans un sanctuaire et vite