Series of accidents with German circus elephants in Sweden

Since spring 2013, at least 4 incidents with female elephants “Dunja” (est. 43 years) and “Daela” (est. 30 years), trained and presented by Anton Frank, happened in the Swedish circus Maximum. Originally, both elephants were owned by German elephant trainer and circus owner Jonny Frank-May, and until his death in March 2012, they usually travelled in Germany with the Circus May. The last years, both elephants were almost always kept in chains and only very rarely had access to an outdoor paddock.

Now in Sweden, they seem to spend more time outside and unchained. However, the circus is apparently unable to guarantee the safety of its visitors, with grave consequences (

Problems started in spring 2013 in Gärdet (near Stockholm), when one of the elephants grabbed a jacket from a teenager and ate it. In May, the hat and shoes of another visitor were destroyed. It is unkown which elephant caused either incident. However, it was Asian female “Dunja” who, also in May 2013, grabbed a 10-year-old child by the legs and dragged her into the enclosure. The most recent attack was caused by African elephant “Daela” in August 2013 in Gubbängen (Stockholm) when she grabbed a six-year-old girl from her father`s arms. Thankfully, he could recover his child without mayor injuries. A similar incident apparently happened in May 2010 in Celle, Germany, while „Dunja“ und „Daela“ were still travelling with circus May.

Anton Frank told the Swedish press that the parents were ultimately responsible for their children and that the elephants weren`t dangerous, just curious.  What he didn`t mention is that the way elephants are managed and presented in circuses deliberately suggests that elephants are harmless, funny clowns that can be approached without concerns. Given the size and strength of an elephant, even their “curiousity” without aggressive intent can lead to very severe injuries. Circus Maximum is apparently neither able nor willing to constantly monitor and supervise “Dunja” und “Daela” to keep them from harming people – the Swedish authorities should act and confiscate both animals before a person is seriously injured or killed.

Elephant females “Daela” (l.) and “Dunja” during a stay in Calberlah, Germany, in 2011
Elephant females “Daela” (l.) and “Dunja” during a stay in Calberlah, Germany, in 2011


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