Lions, monkeys retire from Australia’s Stardust Circus due to insurance problems

The show won’t go on for lions and monkeys performing as part of Australia’s last circus with exotic animals. This is why.

Australia’s last circus using lions and monkeys has been forced to retire the wild animals after being unable to get insurance.

Stardust Circus has been using lions in its travelling family circus for half a century but had to retire its six lions and four monkeys earlier this month after being unable to renew its insurance.

“We tried everywhere. We couldn’t get it at all and that was the end of that,” circus matriarch Jan Lennon said.

“About half a dozen brokers tried everyone.

“The silly thing is we’ve never had a claim with the lions or anything like any risk whatsoever.”

Mrs Lennon said Pen Underwriting refused coverage for the exotic animals without explanation. Pen has been contacted for comment.

The animals are being looked after in the interim, with the circus arranging to move them to a NSW zoo.

But that could take months as special enclosures are being built for them requiring government approval.

“All the zoos have got enough lions, you can’t just throw them in with others, they’ll kill each other. So they have to have separate accommodation for them. This is why it’s taking a bit of time,” Ms Lennon said.

“The Department of Primary Industries have to approve the structure, once it’s up, so it might be a few months down the track.

“We’re having them looked after at the moment, and that’s all we can do until the time comes when they can go there.”

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The rest of the circus animals, including horses, dogs and goats, will continue as part of the show, which tours Australia from January to November.

Animal activist group PETA claimed Stardust’s decision to retire the exotic animals was a win.

“We’re jumping for joy to hear it – and we’re far from alone,” PETA said in a statement.

“The overwhelming majority of Australians understand that captivity is a living hell for animals such as monkeys and lions and that a circus environment can’t possibly meet their complex needs.

“Lions in their natural habitat roam vast areas, claiming territory and seeking out mates, but they can’t do this while being confined to wagons or trucks for days at a time during a circus tour.”

Ms Lennon said the decision to retire the exotic animals was unrelated to pressure from animal activists.

“They’re claiming they’ve done all this and we’ve finally got them out of the circus. It wasn’t them at all. We’ve fought them all the way. It’s about insurance – you can’t go without insurance, it’s as simple as that.”

Ms Lennon said knowing the lions would no longer be part of the show was “a bit tough”.

“My son-in-law took it pretty hard because he’s the one that trained these lions all along,” she said.

“He goes in with the six lions, wrestles them and cuddles them. He’s really devastated this has happened, but there’s not much we can do about it.

“Once they go to a zoo they won’t get handled at all. Because they’re used to the one person handling them, you couldn’t risk somebody else going in with them.”

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Many Australian councils have prohibited circuses with exotic animals and, in some cases, circuses with any animals from performing on council parkland, according to the RSPCA.

More than 40 countries also have national or local bans on using wild animals in circuses, mainly due to animal welfare.

The RSPCA says the requirements of circus life are not compatible with the physiological, social and behavioural needs of the animals.

“The RSPCA’s policy is based on evidence that no circus, no matter how well managed, can provide an appropriate environment for wild animals,” the organisation says.

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