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For Immediate Release: 02/01/05

Tragic Incident of Death of Handler Highlights Dangers of Elephants in Circuses

API Urges USDA to Take Immediate Action and Remove Elephants from Tarzan Zerbini Circus

Sacramento, CA — In light of the recent tragic incident where an elephant handler was trampled to death in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the Animal Protection Institute (API) is calling on the USDA to take immediate action and investigate the incident.

On January 31, as elephants were being loaded onto the truck after performing at the Shrine Circus at the Memorial Coliseum, an elephant fatally trampled a circus handler. The man’s injury included blunt force trauma to the chest area; he was rushed to a hospital where he later died. This is a devastating tragedy which could have been avoided.

This incident highlights why elephants should not be displayed in circuses. Animals used in public displays are dangerous — and even deadly. The conflict between their instincts and the harsh realities of captivity — as well as training methods that utilize violence, fear, and intimidation — causes wild animals tremendous amounts of stress. As a result, captive elephants and captive cats are responsible for hundreds of incidents nationwide, many resulting in death and injury.

“It is impossible to completely eliminate the ‘wild’ from wild animals, and it is no surprise that yet another deadly incident has happened,” says Michelle Thew, Chief Executive Officer. “Future tragedies like this must be prevented by removing these animals from circuses.”

The Tarzan Zerbini Circus, which performed for the Shrine Circus, is all too familiar with these types of incidents. Since 1992, it has experienced six separate incidents where its elephants have escaped and have caused injury and death. In fact, an almost identical incident at the same location occurred in 1995 when a Tarzan Zerbini elephant crushed a handler while loading the animals after the performance.

“We call upon the USDA to take immediate action, investigate this incident, and remove Tarzan Zerbini’s USDA exhibitor’s license to prevent future injury and loss of life,” Thew continues. “In addition, we call upon the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana to properly protect its residents by passing an ordinance prohibiting wild and exotic animals from displaying in the town.”

In the wild, elephants live in large, sociable herds and walk up to 25 miles every day. While in the hands of the circus, wild animals are confined to travel trucks or trains for, on average, 11 months of each year. Life “on the road” takes a heavy toll on animals. For thousands of hours, over long distances, they may be chained in vehicles that lack climate control, forced to stand in their own waste and, when not in transit, forced to live in poor conditions.

The Animal Protection Institute is a national non-profit animal advocacy organization with tens of thousands of members and supporters nationwide working to end animal cruelty and exploitation through legislation, litigation, and public education. For more information about animals in the circus and API please visit: www.MoreBeautifulWild.com.

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