Saturday 20 February 2016 | 0

Vicky : saved from circus hell

After several years in the hell that is the circus, Vicky the elephant was freed by One Voice. Today she enjoys a peaceful retirement in semi-liberty, and most importantly in the company of another elephant…

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It was in the Paris area that One Voice investigators found Vicky, an elephant then aged 42. When we rescued her in January 2006, we created a legal precedent that at last offers hope for all animals held in circuses, and reminds the circus world of its legal duty to care for the animals they have. In the course of this rescue operation we exposed just how much animal suffering and isolation underlies this "entertainment" business.

Physical and mental misery

Vicky is typical of the damage that circuses causes to the animals they exploit. After several years entertaining humans, in living conditions that were totally inadequate, she developed stereotypical behaviour (repetitive swaying). On the site where the circus set up at the start of 2006, it was not difficult to spot the trailer where she was hidden away since it was rocking from side to side. Aside from her mental deterioration, this elephant was also suffering physically. The vet brought in to oversee her journey could do little more than document her injuries : as well as multiple untreated wounds, paralysis of a back leg, caused by unnatural repetitive movements, and paralysis of the trunk, consistent with being endlessly struck by her trainer. These two types of injury are classic amongst elephants abused in circuses.

A wretched life

But there was even more to the suffering of this elephant. In the days before her rescue, One Voice investigators had her under surveillance and observed that she never left her trailer. She had no access to daylight other than briefly when the circus people came to feed her or clean her lorry-cage. Chained up day and night, she could not move, and there was no heating to protect her from the cold. These living quarters were unsuitable and unacceptable, flouting basic regulations on keeping wild animals.

A carefully supervised liberation

The physical and mental state of Vicky somewhat complicated her rescue. We had to « lift » Vicky from her jailers with a police escort. Once our team was sure the elephant was well away, we transferred her to a lorry specially adapted for taking her to Poland, to a vast paddock in a specialist park, and best of all with the company of another elephant survivor.

The rescue in pictures

The rescue and relocation of Vicky required special care and multiple precautions to not endanger her life. These four videos tell the story of her rescue, closely monitored by the French national office for hunting and wild animals (ONCFS), in cooperation with local authorities.

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In the subject

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