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The BBC's Rob Broomby
"The largest prize is a seven day holiday in India and tea with the Maharaja of Jodhpur"
 real 28k

Sunday, 16 July, 2000, 17:38 GMT 18:38 UK
Jumbo race 'a big success'
Elephant race
They thundered down the course - but did they enjoy it?
More than 40,000 spectators watched Europe's first elephant races staged in Germany despite protests by animal rights activists.

The event in Berlin's Hoppegarten featured 14 circus elephants, half of them African and half Asian.


Animal entertainment is not entertaining for the animals

Protest banner
Members of the Animal Peace group objected to the race and were supported by French film star Brigitte Bardo, German rock singer Nina Hagen and India's Social Affairs Minister Maneka Gandhi.

They raised protest banners and some chained themselves together at the racecourse, as the six races went ahead.

Earlier petitions, a fax campaign and a complaint filed with local prosecutors failed to get the event halted.

Racing for the finish
There were treats waiting beyond the finishing tape
The elephants, aged between 14 and 35 years, were urged on only by shouts from their jockeys. They pounded down the 300-metre course in about one minute.

After crossing the finishing line they were rewarded with treats of fruits and vegetables.

Racing tradition

The idea for the race came from the Indian-born mayor of the town of Altlandsberg, just east of Berlin, Ravindra Gujjula.


Elephants like exercising in the fresh air... they think it's fun

Race organiser
The organisers say elephant racing is a tradition in India but tourism officials in India say only two states currently hold such events.

The Indian Embassy in Berlin distanced itself from the event. A spokesperson said the ambassador, who was named honorary chairman of the event, would not be attending.

Deli tries to throw her jockey
Race over and one of the elephants tries to throw her jockey
At the race Mr Gujjula defended the event saying "the animals have fun".

He said the number of spectators showed it was a success but that he had no further race plans.

Elephants have protected status in India, where the animal is revered by many Hindus because of its resemblance to the elephant-headed god Ganesh.

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See also:

06 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Indian minister's elephant alert
01 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Elephants 'killed as aphrodisiac'
04 Apr 00 | Africa
Ivory trade: Horns of a dilemma
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