Meet Mila, a recent but very large addition to top rating news items and heated discussions around New Zealand homes, government departments, and of course Zoos, this past week. Mila is a 39 year old African Elephant who has spent most of her life working as a circus animal in New Zealand under the name Jumbo. She currently lives at the Franklin Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary just south of Auckland, New Zealand.
Last week in a tragic accident Mila fatally injured her trainer and friend, Dr Helen Schofield. There have been many stories put forth of what really happened but what is important to my post is that Mila has been working with Dr Schofield for the past four years to rehabilitate her from her previous life as a circus animal, preparing her to live out her life at Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in San Andreas, California. This is an animal who has been having behavioural problems and panic attacks on a regular basis and Dr Schofield had been working hard to help her. I know what panic attacks feel like and they’re not nice. I can only begin to imagine what it is like for an elephant.
My personal view of the care of animals is that they should be cared for as we would care for ourselves. Accordingly Mila should never have been required to work in a circus, I doubt she should ever have been brought to New Zealand (conditions here are vastly different from Africa). Mila has only ever had humans and other species of animals around her. I’m no expert but I know that elephants are a herd animal. They need to be with other elephants but in 39 years, she never has. I wouldn’t treat another human being, or myself like that so why has she been treated that way.
What happens to Mila now is still on the discussion table but I very much hope that somehow my country can find a way to send her to PAWS asap. That is the least we can do. Unfortunately there is much debate and a lot of it leaves me cold. There should be no debate. We owe this to Mila.
“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant.
An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent.”
Dr. Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg
This post forms one part of my Passions Profile Challenge, so it’s important to say that my passion about the care of animals is not just about Mila. I feel strongly that animals should be respected, both their traits and their needs. I currently don’t have any pets as my darling cat Penny, died three months ago. But the way I treated her was that I cared for her better than I cared for myself. I was privileged to have her, and it wasn’t my right to have great expectations of what she could do for me. Recently I heard a woman saying she wanted to get a dog because a dog would give her the love she craved. It’s true that if she treats the dog well, the dog will respond in love but my perspective is that we should only get a pet for what we can offer it. Am I strange? Maybe.
Admittedly I have had somewhat of an about-face on animals. I grew up being taught that animals did not have a soul and because of this they were less important than humans. Because animals didn’t think like humans, they rated lower on the ranking of importance. I really believed that humans came first, then animals and I suspect that continued down the chain to … perhaps pond scum. But where did I learn this? I can’t remember. I suspect I learnt some of it courtesy of my 1970’s education but then maybe there was some type of biblical reasoning my parents or Sunday School teachers used. I can’t check but I did ask one of my brothers whether he had learnt the same thing. He had no recollection of this so who knows, maybe I made it up. I do have a vivid imagination but then I have read of others having similar theories.
Now though, I can’t believe that I was taught that way. All creatures are God’s children, and I believe that applies no matter who or what your idea of God is. So my strong belief is that I should treat animals at least as well as I treat myself. And yes, I think everyone else should be doing the same.
With this in mind when Penny became very sick and was suffering I ended that suffering by having her euthanized. It broke my heart but I knew (and still know) that it is what was right for her. I am comforted that I believe she is now with my Dad, both in my concept of heaven and neither of them have any more pain.
My inclination has been to now get a small dog but I can’t adopt a dog if I know I can’t afford to take good care of it and ensure I can cover adequate vet care. I can’t do that right now, and so I have to wait. I very much miss having an animal in the house and I would love to be able to care for, and enjoy a dog. One day.
As for Mila, in my opinion, she needs to be sent to California to be in a natural environment in the company of other elephants. The sooner ,the better so she can recover from the life so far.
PS. You’ll notice in the related articles below that some have labelled Mila a ‘killer elephant’. I find this so sad. She is an elephant who made an unfortunate mistake. Yes, literally I guess she killed, but to label her that way totally denies her reality as a victim. Something which I am very much against.
I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it’s such a
beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her.
The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more
than black people were made for white, or women created for men.
If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity,
you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.
~St. Francis of Assisi
- Passions Profile Challenge (infinitesadness.wordpress.com)
- Rest in Peace (infinitesadness.wordpress.com)
- Mila’s Angels – Save Mila the Elephant (facebook.com)
- Franklin Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary (facebook.com)
- Helen Schofield, New Zealand Zookeeper, Killed By Mila The Elephant (huffingtonpost.com)
- CA sanctuary says killer elephant still welcome (heraldonline.com)
- Elephant’s fate yet to be decided (radionz.co.nz)
- Circus elephant kills zookeeper (scotsman.com)
- Police say elephant killed handler by accident (abc.net.au)
- Agitated elephant crushed keeper (news.ninemsn.com.au)
- US park still willing to take elephant (radionz.co.nz)
- Killed zookeeper cared for former circus animals (radionz.co.nz)