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WHAT IS STEREOTYPIC BEHAVIOUR?


Stereotypy, defined as the persistent repetitive and functionless motion by an animal such as swaying or pacing, is a form of abnormal behaviour often seen in many zoo animals. Also known as zoochosis, it is thought that it may be used by animals as a coping mechanism for their captivity.



WHY FOCUS ON ISOLATED CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS?


Many elephants from Asia and Africa ended up in zoos and circuses in the West and elsewhere where the desire to see them in person is underpinned by paying visitors that sustain these profitable industries. As such, it is hoped that this film might make a real impact by raising awareness about this important issue so that people can vote with their wallet on whether they want to continue to see elephants in zoos. In addition, unlike the USA, Europe has no suitable sanctuary for elephants already in captivity to go to to live out their lives in peace and dignity.



WHY NOT SIMPLY AVOID KEEPING ELEPHANTS IN ISOLATION?


Apart from the fact that zoos often cannot accommodate more than one elephant in the already inadequate space they have, isolation is merely the final straw when it comes to elephant captivity: keeping more elephants in captivity will only exacerbate the numerous problems and traumas that captive elephants go through that have been highlighted in the film.



WHAT ABOUT ELEPHANTS BORN IN CAPTIVITY?


Although mostly unsuccessful, breeding programmes have led to a few elephants being born in captivity. Whilst they will have their mother’s company, this is often only for  a short time until they are moved to another zoo or facility. They also face high levels of mortality and shortened life expectancy. And of course elephants in captivity still cannot exhibit the natural instincts that they would in the wild – e.g. foraging, exploring, and social interactions such as playing.



DON’T ZOOS CONTRIBUTE TO CONSERVATION?


The primary purpose of zoos and display animals remains to attract visitors. This means that despite their purported contribution towards conservation activities they must continue to keep wild animals confined, and this risks compromising the wellbeing of those animals.



WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?


Watch the film and spread the word. If your local zoo keeps elephants, ask them whether they can truly meet the needs of these complex, intelligent and social animals.

WHY MAKE THIS FILM?


As the problems faced by animals in circuses and particularly zoos remain unrecognised by the general public, the filmmakers wanted to highlight this issue through the lens of isolated captive elephants in Europe to make it relevant to an audience which has almost certainly visited such animals before. The filmmakers were also moved by story of the Born Free Foundation and the efforts of its founders to preserve the memory of Pole Pole, the last African elephant who died in London Zoo.



WHERE WAS THE DOCUMENTARY FILMED?


The majority of the documentary was filmed in the UK. Archive footage of Pole Pole in London Zoo was used along with footage of Virginia McKenna’s recent visit to see Twiggy in Belgrade, Serbia. In addition to that, Tania was filmed in Tirgu Mures, Romania; the PAWS ARK 2000 sanctuary was filmed in California, USA and Joyce Poole was interviewed in Norway.



WHY FOCUS ON ISOLATED CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS?


Captive elephants kept alone face the most desperate reality of all captive elephants. In addition to the traumas which may be associated with capture, separation, transport and confinement, often in inappropriate conditions, they often suffer the agony of isolation indefinitely. This documentary focuses on their plight as it is the most acute, but of course all captive elephants may suffer some of the problems highlighted in the film, isolated or not.



WHY FOCUS ON EUROPE?


Many elephants from Asia and Africa ended up in zoos and circuses in the West and elsewhere where the desire to see them in person is underpinned by paying visitors that sustain these profitable industries. As such, it is hoped that this film might make a real impact by raising awareness about this important issue so that people can vote with their wallet on whether they want to continue to see elephants in zoos. In addition, unlike the USA, Europe has no suitable sanctuary for elephants already in captivity to go to to live out their lives in peace and dignity.



HOW DID POLE POLE DIE?


After Pole Pole was brought to London Zoo, Virginia McKenna and her husband Bill Travers campaigned for her to be returned to Africa. London Zoo did eventually decide to send her to Whipsnade Zoo as a compromise, where she would at least have had the company of other elephants. However, during preparations for the move she collapsed and damaged a leg. Following an operation she lost the will to live and was euthanised at the young age of 16. Her death, thirty years ago, led to the founding of what became the Born Free Foundation.