Life in isolation for killer elephant

By Kathryn Powley

Mila was to have gone to a US sanctuary, but is still living alone in a closed-down zoo south of Auckland. Photo / Natalie Slade
Mila was to have gone to a US sanctuary, but is still living alone in a closed-down zoo south of Auckland. Photo / Natalie Slade

A killer elephant remains alone at a closed zoo where the owners are refusing offers of help.

Mila the African elephant, a former circus performer, killed her keeper, Helen Schofield, in April 2012.

She was taken to Franklin Zoo almost four years ago to be prepared for moving to a sanctuary in the US.

This week, zoo spokeswoman Jenny Chung refused to discuss the elephant.

Concerned groups that have worked with Mila - including the SPCA, Save Animals From Exploitation and Auckland Zoo - know of no plans to get her to a better life. Her former owner at Whirling Brothers Circus, Tony Ratcliffe, is also shut out.

The zoo, about 40 minutes south of Auckland, is closed and all its other animals have been rehoused.

Chung told the Herald on Sunday that there was "nothing more to tell anybody yet. Maybe in a couple of months we'll have more to tell you.

It's a very long process. Permitting takes nine months."

The Ministry of Primary Industries must issue an export permit for Mila to leave the country. Spokesman Chris Mawson said the ministry was working with the zoo but had not confirmed a date for her transport.

SPCA executive director Bob Kerridge said the organisation wanted to help, especially after Schofield's death, but its offers hadn't been accepted.

"I would have thought that by now they would have raised the funds or made the arrangements to send her to a sanctuary."

Save Animals from Exploitation executive director Hans Kriek said he was "dying to know" what was happening, but he had no concerns about Mila's care.

Kriek said Safe was the driving force in getting her out of the circus and Schofield had spent a phenomenal amount of time bonding with Mila and improving her life.

"We are concerned that Mila's relocation to the US seems to be constantly delayed. I hope they can overcome whatever barriers they perceive to be in their way and that she goes as soon as possible because she's not getting any younger."

He said the zoo should communicate more, because people were worried about Mila.

Auckland Zoo has supported Franklin Zoo but has no role there now.

Spokeswoman Kate Orgias said Mila would not be a suitable companion animal for Indian elephant Burma because African elephants carried a strain of herpes which could kill Indian elephants.

Tony Ratcliffe said he was getting no answers from Franklin Zoo.

"They won't tell me where she's going, if she's going. They've closed the doors on people and they won't let people see her."

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 12 Jul 2014 03:12:47 Processing Time: 9534ms