“She is our daughter and we are her herd,” circus artist Yvonne Kruse said of the Indian elephant she had performed with for 41 years. Then, last September, Kruse, her husband and her son loaded her beloved Dumba into a trailer at their home near Barcelona and disappeared, says Laura Spinney in The Guardian. Theirs is the story of what happens to circus elephants once animal rights campaigners have you in their sights. Dumba’s life in an enclosure the size of two tennis courts, with walks in a nearby forest, was deemed cruel.
The family fled to a friend’s property in the remote Cévennes mountains, southern France. The locals kept mum, but it’s hard to hide a 10ft-tall elephant that weighs 3½ tonnes and eats 140lb of hay and dozens of bananas every day. The activists pounced again – Cher wrote to the French government about Dumba’s “daily torment”. A custom-built elephant sanctuary in the Périgord region remains empty, campaigners say, because of a “gentleman’s agreement” among the 100 or so European owners of ageing performing elephants not to turn them over.
In February Dumba disappeared once more, turning up weeks later in a German elephant park. Kruse is now back in Spain, not saying whether she sold Dumba (she was once offered €200,000), but insisting she is happy. And Dumba’s new owner is teaching her tricks for this summer’s visitors. “She is good at football,” he says.
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