New Zealander wins payout over 'lost' elephant

Elephant handler won a wrongful dismissal claim against a circus

A New Zealand elephant handler won a wrongful dismissal claim against a circus that falsely told him it had lost his beloved animal and his services were no longer required.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) found that Tony Ratcliffe, who had looked after Jumbo the elephant for 30 years, agreed to sell the animal to the Australian-based Loritz Bros. Circus in 2008 and act as its carer.

It said Ratcliffe, who once ran his own circus, disagreed with Loritz Bros. about the way the female elephant was being displayed to be fed by members of the public.

After the dispute, he went to the circus's scheduled camp at Tauranga, on the North Island, only to be told by a staff member that Jumbo was lost and circus workers were looking for her.

He later read in a newspaper that 35-year-old elephant had been donated to the RSPCA.

The ERA found the circus deliberately plotted to mislead Ratcliffe about the elephant's fate, causing him considerable distress about an animal he had formed a close relationship with over three decades.

It ruled Wednesday he had been unfairly dismissed and ordered the circus to pay 26,000 dollars (19,300 US) compensation for lost wages, humiliation and distress at not being able to say goodbye to his long-term charge.

Jumbo now lives at the Franklin Zoo, south of Auckland, where she has been named Mila and is undergoing rehabilitation with the aim of allowing her to socialise with other elephants, national news agency NZPA reported.


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