Hope for Saigon

Posted: January 31, 2010 in Misc Thoughts

Arna in 2001, just swaying from side to side to stop the boredom

After reading about Saigon’s plight in Saturday’s Herald Sun I started thinking about the other circus elephants and in particular the elephant I used to see when Ashton’s visited Melbourne and set up their Big Top at the Burnley Oval. My grandparents lived just around the corner in Richmond and it was always exciting as a kid to drive past the big tent and see the elephants while on the way to Nanny and Granddad’s. There were a couple of occasions when my Granddad and Dad took us kids around to have a look at the animals, and I think we may have watched the show once, but other than that the circus left no big impression in me. I marvelled at the elephantsSad Arna in 2001 but never thought that it was cruel that they were asked to perform for the public.

 Having read about Saigon I decided to do some research and came across Arna, an elephant who worked with the Stardust Circus. Arna underwent some horrible neglect from the Stardust Circus which you can read here, here and here. Fortunately she is now living with her friend Gigi, an ex-Ashton’s elephant, at the Western Plains Zoo with their Asian elephant Burma. Since early 2008 both Arna and Gigi, who like Saigon are in their 50s, have made the Western Plains Zoo their home. Why couldn’t Saigon be moved here? Even though the RSPCA say that Saigon is healthy isn’t it against the law for her to be left on her own. According to  the Exhibited Animals Protection Act there must be a compelling reason to exhibit a solitary elephant. Does this law just apply in NSW and not Victoria? The law also states that “Circuses should not attempt to maintain single elephants.” and that elephants “derive stimulation in interacting with other members of their own species”.

  1. Danny Lewis says:

    you know what Saigon has been with the Perry`s most of her life that would be like talking you away from your family an elephant is not like a horse or even like a dog and yes i have worked with elephants i would like to ask the question have you, have you ever spent any time with these animals and if you cant say yes then you shouldn`t be makeing comments about things you know nothing about i have worked with Saigon i also worked with Burma And Ginnie and i can tell you for 100% fact that the Maynards treat there animals better than most zoo`s that ive been to
    i have also seen them talking turns staying up for 48 hrs straight with sick animals can you say you have done that and unless you can say that you have you should keep your thoughts to yourself there was something i was tought by Jimmy Perry he told me that unless you treat your animals well they wont do anything go and check out the Perrys ican tell you this much i would rather be traveling around the country than be imprisoned in a cage in a Zoo oh yeh and i ment to ask you do you work at a Zoo

  2. Millsie says:

    Firstly, no, I do not work for a zoo and have been quite critical of zoos in some of my previous posts. I have previously spoken about how I think that it was not right of Melbourne Zoo to import three new elephants, given that there is not that much space available for them. I was also critical of their decision to breed with the elephants. There was barely enough room at the zoo for two elephants but in the last five years there have been four more additions with one more on the way. The space available to the elephants at Melbourne Zoo is much too cramped to accommodate seven elephants. Melbourne Zoo say that the reason for the decision to breed their elephants is about conservation and saving the ‘endangered’ Asian elephant, yet in reality it is all about getting more people through the turnstiles.

    You are also correct when you say that I am not someone who has worked or lived with elephants. I am just someone who loves these great animals and has admired them from afar when I have visited the zoo (which probably makes me a hypocrite). However just because I don’t have hands on experience with elephants should not preclude me from having an opinion. Australia is, after all, a free country and everyone is entitled to an opinion. This is also a very emotive issue and people are going to get heated up about it. Truthfully all I really care about Saigon’s welfare.

    Perhaps when I made my initial post I was very unclear with what I had written. I don’t think that I got my point across very well at all. In reality I would prefer that there were no animals in zoos or circuses at all. As I said above, this may make me a hypocrite, as I do attend the Melbourne Zoo quite often. Although I would prefer the elephants to be left in the wild I can see that it would be impossible for this to happen to Saigon (or any other elephant that is in Australia). I am not stupid.

    You say that the Perrys are the only family that Saigon has ever known and that she has grown up in the circus and been with them all her life. While I have no doubt that the Maynards and everyone at Perry’s Circus love and care for Saigon and treat her well, we must remember that female elephants are herd animals and spend their lives with other elephants, not solitary. The Maynards are not elephants. Imagine if you had to spend the last twenty years of your life without seeing another human being. It would be intolerable.

    Also I must mention that the other elephant that I talked about in my post, Arna, was another ex-circus elephant from the Stardust Circus. She was kept alone for a number of years after her companion died and started to show signs of depression and distress. She ended up with a lot of behavioural issues. Her owners said that she couldn’t be relocated because they were the only family she knew and she had been with the circus all her life. They claimed that she was too old to be moved and that she would not cope. Two years ago she was moved to the Western Plains Zoo after she crushed one of her trainers and there was no option but for her to be moved. From what I know she is doing OK at her new home.

    As for the Western Plains Zoo, it is an open range zoo which is better than most of the zoos around Australia. There are no cages and some room to roam, as well as a mud bath to play in too. It’s not the ideal but a lot better than the cramped conditions at Melbourne Zoo and certainly better than the tiny space at Point Cook where Saigon is at the moment, chained behind an electrified fence with very little room at all. At the moment Saigon doesn’t even have the old tyre to play with because of public safety concerns. Exactly what sort of stimulation does she have at the moment?

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