Latest News

Back to Latest News back


Failure to secure insurance see Australia’s last circus with exotic animals move to retire its lions and monkeys

Failure to secure insurance see Australia’s last circus with exotic animals move to retire its lions and monkeys
April 12, 2021

Australia’s ongoing insurance crisis has caused Stardust Circus, Australia’s last travelling circus with exotic animals, to move to retire its performing lions and monkeys.

While the circus will continue to feature ponies, goats and dogs in its performances, an inability to secure public liability insurance for its six lions and monkeys means the animals will be retired to an animal sanctuary.

Established in the early 1990s by the Lennon and West families - two circus families with tradition going back to the late 19th century, Stardust Circus tours the country from the remotest towns to capital cities from January to late November.

Impacted last year by Coronavirus lockdowns, the circus will continue with arts including tumblers, solo trapeze, acrobats, teeter board, aerial silks, cloud swing, flying trapeze and clowns.

Animal rights group PETA Australia has reported it is “jumping for joy” at the announcement, citing a 2020 YouGov survey that it funded which found that 75% of Australians wanted to see a ban on circuses using exotic animals.

However, Stardust Circus emphasises that it was insurance and not animal rights that drove their move, with owner Janice Lennon saying “like many showmen, we have had difficulty being able to secure insurance moving forward.

Advising “we tried everywhere (with) about half a dozen brokers”, Lennon advised that the Circus eventually secured coverage with Pen Underwriting.

However, the specialist insurance agency refused coverage for the exotic animals without explanation.

Commenting on this, Lennon noted “the silly thing is we’ve never had a claim with the lions or anything like any risk whatsoever.”

Last year, when addressing an inquiry into the exhibition of exotic animals in circuses and the exhibition of cetaceans (marine animals) in NSW, Lennon highlighted that retiring exotic animals from circuses to the different environment of a zoo may not be an ideal solution as these animal are used to regular contact with their trainers.

Lennon described the “heartbreaking” decision to retire the Circus’ two elephants - Arna and Gigi -to Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo in 2007.

Describing her regret at sending the animals away she advised “had we known the outcome, we would never have done that.”

Lennon said in the first few months Arna was at the Zoo she dropped as much as 300 kilograms and “just pined for the circus the whole time”.

Lennon said Arna had spent her days waiting by the gate, the last place she saw her former home, and when her family came to visit, both elephants came “flying down the hill, they were that excited to see us”.

While the elephants eventually began to settle at the Zoo, Lennon said when Arna died in 2012, aged 54, keepers could not find a specific cause of death.

Lennon told the inquiry “she eventually died and they said they couldn’t find a cause of death, and they said she died of a broken heart, and that was all they put it down to.”

Fearing action by animal rights activists, Lennon did not identify the zoo that the animals will be retired to.

Images: Two of Stardust Circus' lions (top) and its former elephant Ana (below). Credit: Stardust Circus.

About the author

Nigel Benton

Co-owner / Publisher, Australasian Leisure Management

Nigel Benton is the co-owner and publisher of Australasian Leisure Management, Australia and New Zealand’s only magazine for professionals in all areas of the leisure industry. Having established the magazine in 1997, shortly after his relocation to Australia, he has managed its readership rising to over 11,500 and its acceptance as the industry journal for professionals in aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues.

As of 2020, he has launched the new Asian Leisure Business website.

Among a range of published works and features, his comments on a Blog (blogspot) from 2007 to 2011, when this website went live in its current form, may be interesting to reflect back on.

Click here to connect with him via LinkedIn.

Read more from this author

Related Articles

9th April 2021 - International Federation to celebrate World Circus Day

24th March 2021 - AALARA presents need for Federal Government backing for insurance crisis resolution at Canberra meetings

24th March 2021 - Sydney Showground gets approval to host up to 60,000 people a day for the Royal Easter Show

12th February 2021 - Inability to secure insurance forces closure of Barra Fun Park in Townsville

23rd January 2021 - NSW Government approves plan for new Australian animal precinct at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo

30th December 2020 - AALARA releases ‘urgent request for the survival of our industry’

10th December 2020 - Insurance crisis set to force closures of Australian attractions and adventure tourism businesses

18th November 2020 - AALARA takes action as attractions operators face public liability issues

16th November 2020 - Industry operators impacted by rising insurance premiums

12th June 2020 - Insurance refusals impacting adventure tourism operators

13th November 2020 - World Animal Protection unveils new campaign calling for end to captive dolphin breeding at Gold Coast’s Sea World

24th July 2019 - SafeWork SA halts circus after two performers suffer serious injuries in less than a week

9th February 2018 - Stardust Circus reveals death threats and abuse from animal activists

16th March 2017 - Great Moscow Circus collapse leaves international acts stranded

21st April 2016 - Circus Oz marks World Circus Day 2016

17th May 2014 - Ringling Circus prevails in 14-year legal battle, wins US$15.75 million

16th April 2014 - New Australian circus tours Queensland

21st April 2013 - World Circus Day celebrated on five continents

31st January 2013 - RSPCA slams Gold Coast City Council’s lifting of animal circuses ban

Asking a small favour
We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?

The news we publish at is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.

Subscriptions cost just $90 a year.

Click here to subscribe.


supplier directory

The Complete Guide to Leisure Industry Products & Services.

See the directory see all



Geoff Ninnes Fong & Partners (GNFP) is a structural, aquatic and civil engineering consultancy with broad experience in the design of new municipal and institutional swimming pools, hydrotherapy…

read more

Aquatics / Consultants / Design / Venues


Perfect Gym

Perfect Gym Solutions is a software as a service (SaaS) solution purpose-built to service the fitness industry, with over 1000 clients servicing over 2 million gym members across 40 countries making…

read more

Access / Fitness / Marketing / Recreation / Technology


Augmented Creative

Augmented Creative is an open organization of like-minded and highly dedicated, creative people who conceive, plan and execute visual solutions. We pursue new and innovative visual ideas to help…

read more

Arts / Attractions / Consultants / Design / Tourism



iEDM integrate Design, Engineering and Delivery Management services to convert existing spaces into exciting new entertainment venues. Our team consists of highly qualified professionals with diverse…

read more

Consultants / Design


The P.A. People

The P.A. People is a specialist integrator and contractor in sound reinforcement, audio visual systems, performance lighting and production communications. Over its almost 50 year history the company…

read more

Entertainment / Events / Sport / Technology / Venues


Hadley/Series Australia Pty Ltd

Hadley Australia and Series Australia Pty Ltd are the leading quality theatre chair manufacturers in the southern hemisphere. The businesses work closely with architects, interior designers and…

read more

Arts / Culture / Design / Entertainment / Venues


get listed with our suppliers directory

Get your business noticed in our targeted directory. Viewed by 10,000 industry professionals per week!

list your business