Stardust Circus owner Jan Lennon pictured in Lismore in 2007 with Gigi, one of the two Asiatic elephants they left at the Western Plains Zoo after the other animal, Arna, killed an elephant trainer while the circus was visiting Yamba that same year.
Stardust Circus owner Jan Lennon pictured in Lismore in 2007 with Gigi, one of the two Asiatic elephants they left at the Western Plains Zoo after the other animal, Arna, killed an elephant trainer while the circus was visiting Yamba that same year. Jacklyn Wagner

Elephants a part of circus family

THE owners of the Stardust Circus make a number of detours to Dubbo every year.

It is not because they necessarily love the Central Western city, but because that is where two former family members live – Arna and Gigi, the 55-year-old Asian elephants.

Arna rose to infamy in December 2007 when she killed elephant handler Ray Williams while the circus was setting up at Yamba.

In the controversy that followed, Stardust Circus owner Jan Lennon and her family decided the best course of action was to relocate the elephants to Dubbo’s Western Plains Zoo.

Some animal liberation advocates were quoted at the time saying Stardust’s decision was a win for the animals but in the immediate aftermath of the move the elephants suffered in their new environment.

“In the four months after we left them at Dubbo, Arna lost 300kg,” Ms Lennon said. “She took the move harder than Gigi and the zoo was very concerned she might not make it.”

Ms Lennon explained the elephants had been with the circus for most of their lives and had come to love life on the road.

“We had Arna for 18 years and Gigi for eight years and they loved travelling,” the Stardust owner said.

“They loved the life and performing. When they came to a new town they loved exploring all the new areas and eating new grass and causing mischief.”

A visit from the Lennons to the zoo helped break Arna’s separation anxiety.

“We were so shocked when we saw her – she was a bag of bones,” Ms Lennon said.

The circus stayed in Dubbo for two weeks and saw the elephants each day, during which time they became used to their friends spending time with them each day but also leaving.

On a subsequent trip to the zoo the reaction of the elephants to their former owners coming to see them was intense.

“Arna and Gigi were being fed and my son Joel, who worked with them before, called them quietly and they flew down this hill to see him,” Ms Lennon said.

“They were so happy to see us. When we left later they both stood in the corner of the paddock where we had to leave and Arna had tears running down her cheeks. So did we.

“We miss them terribly but there are some advantages to not having them. We always get the bond back for the grounds we use now because they’re not digging them up any more.”


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