An update from Animals Australia's Executive Director, Glenys Oogjes:
The story of Saigon has touched the hearts of thousands of caring Australians, and as you may know, Animals Australia believed in good faith that Perry Bros had recently responded to community concerns by retiring Saigon to their country property. However, on Sunday 14th March we learned via Perry Bros website that they were not going to retire this old elephant from life on the road, and instead have trucked her back to Melbourne to be with the circus for their season at Bayswater North.
This decision has shocked and horrified Animals Australia. That this 55-year-old elephant will now have to face the stresses of further transportation and relocation only to be once again confined in a small barren enclosure on public display is a tragedy, and proves beyond any doubt that the welfare of this elephant is not a priority for Perry Bros Circus.
During a meeting with myself, and independently with Communication Director Lyn White, Perry Bros matriarch Lorraine Maynard conveyed that the rest of her family hadn't wanted Saigon to accompany the circus on their summer season, but that she had wanted her there — a decision that they were now clearly regretting in light of the public outcry regarding Saigon's welfare.
With Lorraine Maynard flatly refusing to consider any possibility of Saigon being relocated with other elephants, Animals Australia consulted with elephant experts who concurred that the most dire need for Saigon was to be retired from the stresses of circus life. In discussions with Perry Bros, they agreed to take Saigon back to their 80 hectare country property at the end of their Roxburgh Park season. This property represented the only place of sanctuary from public life that Saigon has ever known. She was already familiar with the environment and would have the company of other animals there — and importantly — there she could live out her life in peace. Saigon has been there for the past 2 weeks.
Lorraine Maynard's decision to truck Saigon back to Melbourne this week is inconceivable — when the community, elephant experts and animal welfare groups have been united in their concerns and calls for her to be retired from public life.
With the clear refusal of Perry Bros to act in the best interests of Saigon, Animals Australia now has no choice but to re-launch the campaign on Saigon's behalf and lobby the Brumby government to ban the keeping of single elephants in circuses in Victoria in line with cruelty legislation in SA, NSW and QLD. Saigon deserves the same protection from abuse in Victoria that she would receive in neighbouring states.
Please help us to call on the Victorian government to join other states in passing legislation that prohibits the keeping of elephants in inappropriate environments at circuses. Not only can they do this, but they also have the power to attach conditions to licence permits related to the keeping of exotic animals that would also ensure Saigon's retirement.
Even if you have never written a letter to a politician before, please write one on behalf of this dear old elephant. Written letters do take a little more time and effort than sending an email, but we believe on this occasion that letters received by post will be most effective. The government needs to hear the heartfelt pleas of the community on behalf of Saigon. We have prepared a draft letter that can be printed and sent, but even more effective will be a personalised letter from you.
To all our supporters, please accept my sincere thanks again for speaking out on behalf of captive circus animals. Your help today will strengthen the call to secure a peaceful retirement for Australia's last circus elephant, and move us all an important step closer to a world free from the cruelty of exotic animal circuses.
Executive Director, Animals Australia