April 30th, 2013 by Deborah Robinson
In Defense Of Animals Asks Feds To Investigate Treatment Of Baby Elephants With Cole Bros. Circus
Frederick, Md. (April 30, 2013) – In Defense of Animals (IDA) is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately investigate the physical and mental well-being of two baby elephants performing with the Cole Bros. Circus. The circus is scheduled to perform in Frederick, Maryland on May 1 and 2, Leonardtown on May 6 and 7, and Crownsville on May 8 and 9.
Cole Bros. Circus is using two young siblings for performances, under contract with Carson & Barnes Circus. Six-year-old Val and two-year-old Hugo should be with their mother, not on the road forced to perform under a grueling schedule. IDA provided the USDA with recent evidence showing the two elephants exhibiting signs of poor welfare. IDA is asking the USDA to remove Val and Hugo from the road and ensure that the elephants are examined by an independent veterinarian.
“It’s bad enough that Cole Bros. Circus and Carson & Barnes separated these babies from their mothers when the elephants should still be nursing,” said Nicole Meyer, Director of IDA’s Elephant Protection Campaign. “Val has traveled without her mother since before she was two years old, and now Hugo is, too. Premature weaning and the disruption of the maternal social bond can cause long-term trauma and stress to elephants, as we’re seeing with Val and Hugo.”
IDA provided video documentation to the USDA showing both elephants engaging in unnatural stereotypic behavior indicative of psychological distress. Val bobs her head and paces, while Hugo shifts his back legs repeatedly. An eyewitness also confirmed that Hugo was confined alone in a trailer overnight and later separated from his sister, Val, and the other elephants by electrical wire.
IDA has submitted numerous complaints about Cole Bros. Circus, prompting federal action including:
• In 2012, the USDA imposed a fine for failure to provide veterinary care to an emaciated elephant, failure to handle an elephant in a way that minimized the risk of harm to the public and the elephant, using handlers who lacked the training and knowledge to safely handle tigers and elephants in public, and illegal trafficking in tigers.
• In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fined the circus and owner John Pugh $150,000 for the illegal sale of two endangered Asian elephants.
• Even after formal charges were filed in 2011, the USDA cited trainers performing with the circus for safe-handling violations, including an inexperienced handler giving rides on an elephant with a history of bolting.
“Hugo and Val are paying the price of a greedy circus industry exploiting vulnerable elephants in order to make a buck,” said Meyer. “The suffering these baby elephants endure is just one more example of why wild animals don’t belong in circuses.”