Court shown footage of circus elephant being abused

Anne the rescued elephant sprays herself with sand as she plays in her enclosure at Longleat Safari Park
Anne the rescued elephant sprays herself with sand as she plays in her enclosure at Longleat Safari Park

Footage of a circus elephant being kicked and hit with a pitchfork was today shown at the trial of a husband and wife who are accused of causing it unnecessary suffering.

Bobby and Moira Roberts appeared at Northampton Crown Court accused of having kept the 58-year-old Asian elephant, called Anne, constantly chained to the ground at the Bobby Roberts Super Circus in Polebrook, Cambridgeshire.

The couple, in their 60s, are also accused of failing to prevent an employee from repeatedly beating Anne and failing to ensure the elephant’s needs were met.

Opening the case for the prosecution, Helen Law played video footage, filmed by Animal Defenders International (ADI), to Northampton Crown Court which showed the animal being struck several times by staff, kicked and hit with the pitchfork.

The legs of the animal, who prosecution allege was not receiving medication for its arthritis, could also be seen to buckle several times in the footage filmed covertly by the animal welfare organisation.

Mr and Mrs Roberts, of Brook Farm, Oundle, Northamptonshire, deny all the charges.

They have since handed arthritic Anne to Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire, where she is making good progress in her recovery.

The couple were originally the focus of a private prosecution by Animal Defenders International (ADI), a worldwide animal welfare organisation, following its undercover investigation and filming.

ADI’s legal representatives contacted the Crown Prosecution Service, asking it to take over the prosecution.

The CPS took on the prosecution “given the public concern over the case”.

The charges have been brought under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Anne now lives in a 13-acre paddock at Longleat, complete with a giant sandpit.

An update on the park’s website earlier this year said there had been improvement in the condition of her skin, feet, trunk, ears and general muscle tone.

Anne is given regular physiotherapy under the guidance of an animal osteopath, a new hay barn has been dedicated to her food storage, and elephant-sized scratching posts and new feed facilities have been installed.

She is also said to be a very well-behaved elephant whose relationship with her keepers is improving daily.