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A circus elephant at the centre of an animal rights controversy has been banned from Dunedin City Council reserves, following a U-turn by the council yesterday.
Further information on the animal's treatment from the Save Animals From Exploitation (Safe) campaign group swayed enough councillors to change the decision when it went to the council for final approval yesterday.
Jumbo the African elephant was to have arrived with the travelling Loritz Circus for shows over Easter, after being granted an exemption by a council committee this month from rules banning exotic animals from council-owned reserves.
Safe campaign officer Sacha Dowell, of Christchurch, said yesterday her group had provided what she said was evidence the 35-year-old elephant was being kept in breach of a code of welfare.
That included photographs of a chain around the animal's foot that was not properly covered with plastic to keep it from contact with the skin.
As well, it was not getting the eight hours of exercise a day required, and the group had supplied evidence on its emotional state.
At the meeting, Cr Teresa Stevenson called for the council not to approve the committee's decision.
Cr Dave Cull, who voted for the exemption at the committee meeting, said the information gave him "little choice" but to vote against it.
Cr Michael Guest agreed, but Cr Neil Collins said the animal had a safe and comfortable environment in which to live and the circus intended to return the elephant to a sanctuary environment.
The meeting voted nine votes to five not to approve the exemption.
Loritz marketing manager Paul Johnson last night said he was devastated by the decision.
"They have been conned by Safe."
The circus would still come to the Oval, Dunedin, next week, but an "alternative site" for Jumbo would need to be found.
"We don't want to break any bylaws . . . even though the council have mucked us about a bit."
Several weeks ago, the circus had received a letter from the council approving Jumbo's visit and the late notice was a major setback for the circus, he said.
"We are still committed to Dunedin, because the majority of the public want us there."
Ms Dowell said the group would start a "peaceful protest" if the animal came to Dunedin.