Circus elephants find the quiet life at Dubbo
15 Jan 2008
Asian elephants Arna and Gigi have arrived at the Western Plains Zoo
after being retired from the Stardust Circus. | Justin Huntsdale
By Justin Huntsdale
She’s Australia’s most notorious elephant, and as of today, the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo New South Wales is home.
Last month, Asian elephant Arna trampled her 57-year-old handler Ray Williams to death at Yamba.
After years of touring with the circus, Stardust has donated the 53-year-old elephant and her companion elephant Gigi, 50, to the Western Plains Zoo.
“It all went very smoothly,” elephant keeper Roger Brogan said.
“We had the elephants turn up at 10.30am Monday morning. We unloaded them and put them in a smaller enclosure for the initial period.
“It was a big day for them. They had to meet some new elephants and there were some people who knew them well and cared for them dearly that had to say goodbye,” Mr Brogan said.
The elephants are being kept in a quarantined area away from the other elephants at the zoo as a precaution.
“Any new animal you don't have an established relationship with is a danger. You have to be very careful.
“We'll handle these animals with what we call ‘protective contact’. This just means there’s a barrier between us. This style of treatment has proved very successful in the past,” Mr Brogan said.
This isn’t the first time Arna has made national news.
In 2002 Animal Liberation NSW campaigned to have the elephant transferred to the Western Plains Zoo after her companion Bambi died.
Following the death of Mr Williams in December, the circus announced it would retire Arna and Gigi.
“We have to get to know them and establish a relationship with them. They are here to retire but we still have to be hands-on and provide medical care,” Mr Brogan said.
“We’ll stand back and let them do their thing. They’re old ladies and they've experienced a lot in their lifetime. We just have to read their behaviour and treat them accordingly.”
At this stage the elephants will be at Dubbo indefinitely, and the new arrivals have put a strain on zoo staff.
“We’ve got five keepers working here but other zoos have offered to send down extra elephant keepers until we look at putting on extra staff,” Mr Brogan said.
“The place is still a big novelty for them. We've got happy elephants at the moment but in two weeks that could change. It all looks rosy at the moment but anything could happen so we'll have to wait and see.”
Zoo welcomes killer circus elephant
15 Jan 2008
Two circus elephants have arrived at their temporary new home at Dubbo's Western Plains Zoo in far western New South Wales, after one of them crushed its 54-year-old handler on Boxing Day.
The Stardust Circus handler was tending to the two asian elephants, Arna and Gigi, at the Yamba Showground on the NSW North Coast when he was killed.
The circus donated the elephants to the zoo after the tragedy.
Western Plains Zoo's senior elephant keeper, Roger Brogan, says the animals are settling into their new surroundings after yesterday's lengthy road trip.
Mr Brogan says safety measures will be taken while the keepers establish a relationship with them.
"Any new animal that you don't have an established relationship with, particularly elephants, you have to be very careful of," he said.
"At this stage, we'll handle these animals with what we call protective contact.
"[That] means we'll handle them with a barrier or a fence in between us, which adds to the challenge but certainly in this day and age, is done very successfully."