York County elephant stories, Part III: The case of the panicky pachyderms
Ok, one more elephant story to complement two previous posts.
Again, one that can bring a tear to the eye, from the York Daily Record, 1995:
While a veterinarian stitched up the elephant hurt Thursday in Hanover, seven other elephants munched on hay nearby, unable to move much because their legs were chained.
Around them stood several blue-uniformed circus employees holding the hooked poles they used to control the animals.
To animal rights groups, the conditions elephants endure in circuses, where they spend much of their lives shut up in trucks, contribute to the incidence of elephant violence. Last year in the United States, at least one person was killed and many others injured by circus elephants.
An elephant in Hawaii killed his trainer and trampled several other people before it was shot to death on a Honolulu street. In Kansas, an elephant wrapped its trunk around the neck of a 3-year-old girl who was feeding it grass. The girl suffered only scrapes and bruises. Backstage at the “Regis and Kathie Lee Show,“ an elephant from The Great Moscow Circus went on a rampage and fractured her trainer’s skull.
“Unfortunately, attacks like this happen all too frequently with the stress of performing in a traveling circus,“ said Kathy Savory, spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a national group based in Rockville, Md. “In the wild, these animals would travel 30 miles a day on their own,” she said. “But when they’re in the circus, they’re chained, generally 20 to 23 hours a day. Circus elephants are not given any rest or vacation. They’re on the road 52 weeks a year.”
In the incident at the North Hanover Mall, circus officials said an impatient driver honked his horn and spooked a line of elephants walking through the parking lot. One elephant turned to look and got rammed by the elephant behind her. That touched off a bumping match.
An elephant pushed another through a plate glass window at Sears Auto Service. The two elephants crashed through another window, one repeatedly bumping the other. The elephants ran around the parking lot, trumpeting and sitting on cars. No one was injured, although a female elephant named Freda sustained a deep gash under her right eye from broken glass.
She will be fine, said Denise Hobart, marketing director for Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus. Freda was flown over from Bangkok as a baby and grew up in the circus. Now in her early 30s, she had never caused trouble, circus owner John Pugh said.
Whatever animal rights groups say, circus officials insist that the elephant rampage was an isolated incident sparked by an inconsiderate driver, not a symptom of mistreatment by the circus. Well fed and well cared for, circus animals generally live much longer than animals in the wild, Hobart said.
“In the circus, these animals are able to be kept in a healthy, stimulating lifestyle,” she said. Although circuses have been picketed by animal rights groups such as PETA in the past few years, Hobart said she didn’t disagree with their values.
“PETA is an organization that promotes animal welfare,” she said. “We promote animal welfare, too.”
Neither Hobart, nor other circus officials could be reached for comment on the specifics of PETA’s charges, such as the amount of time elephants spend in chains and on the road, which came in a later interview. The circus is reviewing its procedures for handling elephants, with plans to tighten security, Hobart said.
“When you see a problem, and what’s happened, you would be stupid not to make some changes,“ she said. The circus’ insurance will pay for any damage, she said.
“It’s unfortunate that something like this happened,“ she said. “But it was an isolated incident.”