There was a time, way before the Internet of things, when animals as entertainment were not only acceptable but very sought-after. Circuses and zoos served as an exhilarating experience, in a limited world of choice.
But audiences continue to evolve, travellers have become more eco-conscious - in the face of changing world that sees some 1-million species already on the brink of extinction.
In South Africa, ‘Lonely Lammie', an elephant in captivity at the Joburg Zoo has become the local poster animal of struggling captive animals and instead of heeding public sentiment against the cruelty of animals in captivity, the zoo has acquired two more free-roaming elephants.
READ: TL;DR landmark UN Climate Change report: Close to 1 million species at risk
Conservation Action Trust (CAT) reports the two new elephants, a 21-year-old male named Ramadiba and a 19-year-old female named Mopane, were initially captured from the wild before being sold to the Eastern Cape-based Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve near Chintsa. The reserve offered elephant interactions to paying visitors, with Ramadiba and Mopane as main attractions. They now join Lammie in her tiny enclosure.
Brett Mitchell, chairperson of the Elephant Reintegration Trust (ERT), says it is a disaster waiting to happen. "These elephants were taken straight from a free-contact situation into a protected enclosure with no transitional period. There is no space in the enclosure, which is surrounded by a moat system which they have never had to deal with."
ERT, together with leading elephant management organisations Humane Society International - Africa and the EMS Foundation, has been working since September last year to release Lammie to a rewilding facility with a herd of previously-captive elephants.
READ: ‘Lonely Lammie': the poster animal of SA's struggling captive animals
Both Lammie and her previous partner, Kinkel, who died at the zoo, had been injured after falling into the moat. In 2001, Lammie fell in and was reported to have “both right legs stiff” and broke her tusk, but survived. Kinkel fell into the moat in 2007 but was apparently uninjured. He died at the zoo in September last year after a long-term history of chronic colic and eating sand. He was 35 years old.
Following his death, Joburg Zoo stated that the elephant enclosure would be enlarged.
News24 reports the Zoo has met the required one hectare for four elephants, and that the "enclosure currently has 1.5 hectares" - this is marginal in comparison to the amount of ground usually covered by free-roaming elephants. Although, the zoo says Lammie has known no other life and would not be able to cope with being released.
'The fight against animal cruelty in the industry'
But could we imagine zoos and circuses without real, live animals - in the face of growing concern that many of these captive animals endure unnatural, often hazardous conditions for most of their lives.
The alternative is already transforming the traditional.
The Thinking Humanity details how Circus Roncalli has recently shunned tradition, swapping flesh and blood for holograms.
Yet the experience remains just as spectacular.
The travelling circus has been entertaining crowds since 1976 but it has now decided to change things up in an attempt to fight against animal cruelty in the industry. Tusks and tails, fiery circles and acrobats are still a huge drawcard - only difference is not one of the animals are real.
Watch below to see how Roncalli creates a "3D holographic pictures from projectors while filling the arena measuring 32 meters (105 feet) wide and five meters (16 feet) deep with 360° visibility for the entire audience".
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