Death of Shrine Circus Elephant Handler Mirrors SeaWorld Orca Tragedy
Use of elephants in entertainment is as cruel and more dangerous than use of Orcas
San Rafael, Calif. – In Defense of Animals (IDA) is calling for an end to the use of elephants in circuses, following the death Friday of a Shrine Circus elephant handler in Pennsylvania after being struck by an African elephant named Dumbo. The incident comes just six weeks after an orca killed his trainer at SeaWorld. Both deaths are reminders of the deadly consequences of using large, highly intelligent, and dangerous animals in entertainment.
“Like orcas, elephants are highly complex animals who suffer terribly in captivity,” said Dr. Elliot Katz, IDA president and a veterinarian. “Elephants in circuses endure intense confinement, social isolation and the constant threat of physical punishment. It is no surprise that these highly stressed animals lash out at the people around them.”
Elephants in circuses spend their lives in chains and in the tight confinement of trucks and train cars, constantly transported around the country. Trainers dominate elephants through physical punishment with the bullhook, a steel-tipped weapon similar to a fireplace poker that is used to strike, stab, prod and intimidate elephants into obedience. Electric prods are often used.
Like almost all elephants in circuses, Dumbo was torn from her family in the wild. She was sold to a circus trainer at age three, and has lived alone for over a year. Elephants in the wild roam many miles each day, and live in large, tight-knit family groups in which females remain with their mothers for life.
Circuses put traumatized, stressed elephants in dangerously close proximity to the public, with many used for rides, including Dumbo. Since 1990, at least 13 human deaths and 120 injuries in the U.S. have been attributed to elephants, including:
* In 2009, 15 children were injured when one elephant pushed another into a platform holding people waiting for elephant rides at a Shrine Circus in Indianapolis. The elephants had a history of fighting yet continued to give rides after the incident. One elephant had previously injured a woman.
* In 2007, an elephant worker suffered broken ribs and a dislocated jaw when a “startled” elephant ran over him at the Arizona Renaissance Festival. This elephant is still giving rides.
* In 2006, an elephant named Minnie was giving rides with the Commerford Petting Zoo and seriously injured two handlers, one of whom reportedly struck her in the face. She was involved in at least three previous incidents and is still giving rides.
* In 2005, a trainer was trampled to death by at least one of three Tarzan Zerbini elephants used in an Indiana Shrine Circus. Zerbini elephants are still giving rides.
* In 2004, an elephant named Nosey with the Liebel Family Circus injured a worker after she struck him with her tusk. Nosey still gives rides to children regularly.
“Despite a terrible record of elephant suffering and human injuries and deaths, it is business as usual for the circus industry,” stated Katz. “It’s time to put a stop to the dangerous and cruel practice of using elephants in circuses.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 12, 2010
IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS • 3010 KERNER BLVD. • SAN RAFAEL, CA 94901 • 415-448-0048
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