"Mausi" – the help came too late

For a long time we had been aware of female “Mausi” at Circus Voyage, a circus only founded at the end of the 1990s. “Mausi’s” fate can well be regarded as an example for the fate of other commercially used animals of her species.

”Mausi’s” life

As is the case with all her conspecies kept in circuses, the female African elephant was imported to Europe at the age of approx. one year. She showed the small stature typical of almost all elephants with the same life and history of suffering as well as behavioural disorders (e.g. so-called “weaving“).

What was absolutely obvious even for non-experts, however, was the massive physical disability she suffered from during the final years of her life - severe arthrosis of the hind legs, stiff right hind leg, as well as being underweight. This disability was the reason why since the end of 2008, the African elephant was no longer permitted to perform in the arena and why she had to stand in a small paddock without any occupation. Thus, “Mausi” did not even get the so-called “daily occupation in accordance with her typical behaviour” as stipulated in the unacceptable “Zirkusleitlinien” (guidelines on the keeping of animals in circuses in Germany); due to being kept in a travelling circus, the chronically ill animal sustained permanent pain and sufferings. Furthermore, following the death four years previously of “Anja”, her only close social partner, the elephant had no social connection with the elephant herd of Circus Voyage – she lived among elephants, yet alone.

No help was allowed

For eight years, our association left nothing undone to raise the responsible veterinary authorities’ awareness for the suffering of this animal – a suffering which was actually more than obvious. As early as 2007 there had been a transfer decree for “Mausi”, then also valid for her only social partner “Anja” who was also in frail health; however, at none of the more than 30 sites of circus performances did the official veterinarians feel obliged or able to become active. Instead, in most cases, their judgment was “no objections”.

And something like this was possible although the sum of the above-described conditions would have been sufficient to force any veterinary office to become active, even in the absence of the legal ban of wild animals in circuses, which is still far from being reality. In their function as guarantors of animal protection they would have been obliged to transfer a chronically ill elephant from a living situation characterised by animal abuse to one in accordance with the animal’s needs –in the same way as they help numerous pets in similar situations month after month.

At the turn of the year 2009/2010, ELEFANTEN-SCHUTZ EUROPA e.V., together with the Berlin-based Initiative für ein Wildtierverbot in Zirkussen (Initiative for a ban of wild animals in circuses), tried to support the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf borough office in their efforts to enable “Mausi” to spend her remaining years in a suitable zoo in accordance with her needs.

However, instead of confiscating “Mausi” on the basis of the above-mentioned facts, the veterinary and food supervisory office of the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf borough, too, was not able to find any reasons for objections regarding “Mausi’s” keeping. Instead of making it clear that a chronically ill animal, which was not even fit enough to perform anymore and was by no means fit enough to be kept in a travelling circus, the authority — as a last resort in order not to be obliged to become active in the face of the overwhelming burden of proof — found an expert who was on the side of the circus. He was to determine whether a further stay in the circus would still be justifiable for an elephant in such frail health; and he, too, found reasons why “Mausi’s” future in a suitable zoo would allegedly be less positive than her then living conditions: According to him, it was hardly possible for her to receive better care than at Circus Voyage; furthermore, he claimed that the African elephant was so well integrated in Voyage’s “stable” elephant herd that taking her away would not be recommendable despite all physical problems.

Only those scientists with no knowledge on the free-range ethology of these animals argue in this way, from the perspective of the last century. The expert in question who, despite 30 years of work as a veterinarian at the Berlin Zoo (until 2002), had no own experience with elephants living in the wild, calls himself a friend of the circus and an advocate of keeping wild animals in circuses. Some 80 % of what we now know about the intelligent giant animals, however, has only been learned over the last ten to 15 years, particularly based on field research.

There are few scientists worldwide who have such a degree of experience with traumatised African elephants as Dr Marion E. Garaï. Moreover, the scientist, who holds a doctorate degree in zoology, has studied the behaviour of elephants in human care for many years. She performed her research in circuses and zoos in cities such as Zurich and Berlin, in the Pinnawela Orphanage in Sri Lanka and on elephants who had became orphans as a result of the legalized “culling” in the South Africa; thus, she combines findings of free-range research with those gained with captive elephants.

On our website, you can read her expert assessment on the African elephant cow „Mausi“ of Circus Voyage; it reveals an image of the husbandry situation of this elephant which is as impressive as it is upsetting and in the face of which official veterinarians throughout Germany still close their eyes:

“Mausi” dies — because of the failure of governmental controls!

Neither the owner, Circus Voyage, nor the official veterinarians who were to control “Mausi’s” condition at each site of circus performance, reacted to the efforts undertaken to find an adequate permanent accommodation for the suffering animal. Only in mid-January 2012 did the circus change its opinion — probably as a result of the fact that, meanwhile, the female had become very weak. Still, her owner wanted to sell the elephant to a Belgian zoo and transported her there himself.

On her arrival at zoo park Pairi Daiza on17/01/2012, “Mausi” was lying in the transporter and could no longer get up — even though the German veterinarian who had treated her had attested that she was capable of being transported.

Despite the experienced Belgian veterinarians’ efforts it was not possible to bring “Mausi” back on her legs. She died at the age of approx. 31 years.

“Mausi’s” death is proof of what has been perfectly clear for years to our association and experts such as Dr Marion Garaï: This elephant had long been unfit for transport and it should have no longer been permitted to keep her in a circus and have her transported along with it! Her fate is a tragic example for the complete and systematic failure of state control as well as of a sweetheart deal on the side of the responsible veterinarian.


Although prohibited by the law, in practice it is possible in Germany to drag along, until the bitter end, animals which are obviously most seriously ill, thus submitting them to permanent severe pain and suffering. Their death, however, should preferably take place elsewhere. Captivity-related Problems of African elephants in German circuses (in German)

„Mausi’s“ legacy – our efforts will go on!

Right from the start, ELEFANTEN-SCHUTZ EUROPA e. V. has been particularly concerned with the fate of elephants kept in circuses, with regard to both their overall population and the animal-welfare-related situation of the individual animals.

Wherever possible, our association’s members document the unacceptable husbandry conditions under which the intelligent giant animals are still being used commercially; they also try and sensitize both the audience and the responsible authorities to the continued problems and sufferings of circus elephants.

For this reason, our association will continue to fight for a legal ban of keeping elephants in travelling circuses. Until this aim is achieved, however, we will do everything we can to transfer to proper stationary facilities elephants who have suffered damage from having been kept in circuses!

As the confiscation of large wild animals may fail simply because of a lack of an appropriate adopting zoo and means of transport, ELEFANTEN-SCHUTZ EUROPA e.V. is very glad to have gained the support of some zoos: zoos which feel committed to animal protection will also in future be prepared to adopt circus elephants. Where necessary, ELEFANTEN-SCHUTZ EUROPA e.V. will establish the relevant contacts.


Our special thanks go Dr Marion E. Garaï for her highly dedicated commitment to the elephants in general, and for “Mausi’s” well-being in particular, as well for her kindly providing us with her expert opinion.
Furthermore, we would like to express our gratitude to Steffen Patzwahl, director of the Belgian zoo Pairi Daiza, for his readiness and efforts to adopt “Mausi”.

Sincere thanks go to Dr Susanne Klomburg for being willing to accommodate confiscated African circus elephants, including handicapped ones, in the Osnabrück zoo.

(Meanwhile the Osnabrück zoo has adopted two other circus elephants whose owner had handed them over voluntarily and in time.)


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