An African elephant named Kenia caused quite a stir in the small German town of Neuwied this week when she broke through the ᴇʟᴇᴄᴛʀɪᴄ ꜰᴇɴᴄᴇ of her ᴄɪʀᴄᴜs ᴇɴᴄʟᴏsᴜʀᴇ. Kenia’s unexpected ᴇsᴄᴀᴘᴇ allowed her to roam around the area for a brief period, providing the locals with a surreal experience. People who happened to be strolling along the sidewalk had to stop and let the gentle giant walk past them.
Although Kenia’s ꜰʀᴇᴇᴅᴏᴍ was brief, it was a peaceful excursion. She seemed to have enjoyed the ability to decide where she went and when she did so. African elephants are intelligent animals with complex emotions and, in the ᴡɪʟᴅ, travel in large, tightly bonded herds. They travel an average of 15 miles a day. In contrast, Kenia was only able to walk a little over half a mile on her solitary adventure before being ʀᴇᴄᴀᴘᴛᴜʀᴇᴅ and returned to the ᴄɪʀᴄᴜs.
However, when ᴄɪʀᴄᴜs animals break free, the outcome can be ᴅᴇᴀᴅʟʏ. Just a few years ago in Germany, another ᴄɪʀᴄᴜs elephant fatally ᴛʀᴀᴍᴘʟᴇᴅ a 65-year-old man out for a walk. This underscores the ʀɪsᴋs to public safety that arise from the sᴛʀᴇssᴇs and ᴀʙᴜsᴇs ᴄɪʀᴄᴜs animals suffer during training and performances.
Many countries around the world, including some in Europe, have already banned the use of ᴡɪʟᴅ animals in ᴄɪʀᴄᴜsᴇs. However, Germany is still lagging behind in implementing this change. This fact is particularly troubling given that African elephants, like Kenia, face numerous man-made ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛs aside from being used for entertainment, from habitat loss to ᴘᴏᴀᴄʜɪɴɢ.
In fact, they are at such a high risk of ᴇxᴛɪɴᴄᴛɪᴏɴ that they could disappear from the world in our lifetime. Kenia’s brief ᴇsᴄᴀᴘᴇ offers a glimpse into what ꜰʀᴇᴇᴅᴏᴍ could feel like for ᴄᴀᴘᴛɪᴠᴇ animals. Hopefully, stories like this one will encourage more countries to follow the lead of those who have already ᴏᴜᴛʟᴀᴡᴇᴅ the use of ᴡɪʟᴅ animals in ᴄɪʀᴄᴜsᴇs.