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For Immediate Release: 09/26/08

Circus death puts elephant exploitation in the spotlight

Mexico City — In a shocking incident that underscores the serious danger inherent in wild animal circuses, Indra, an elephant with “Circo Union” circus, escaped onto a highway and was struck and killed by a bus earlier this week. The bus driver also perished and a number of passengers were reported injured.

Mexico State officials have now seized 12 animals — 2 Asian elephants and 10 Siberian tigers — from the circus after inspections found them to be improperly contained and at risk of escape. Inspectors noted the elephants were being kept tied to the wheel of a trailer and that other enclosures lacked proper locks.

This latest incident underscores Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute (Born Free USA)’s fears for the plight of elephants in captivity. And it is not only Mexican circus tragedies catching the headlines.

“It doesn’t matter where you turn, captive elephants are in trouble,” explained Nicole Paquette, Senior Vice President of Born Free USA. “Here in the United States, we are one of four plaintiffs in a groundbreaking federal lawsuit against Ringling Bros. circus for its mistreatment of endangered Asian elephants.” The Washington DC trial is scheduled to begin on October, 20, 2008, focusing on Ringling’s use of bullhooks and near-constant chaining of their elephants as they travel across the country.

Born Free USA is also speaking out on behalf of Jenny, an emotionally crippled elephant living alone in inappropriate housing at the Dallas Zoo. After a huge public outcry, the Dallas Zoo has agreed not to send Jenny to a Mexico City safari park but refuses to accept an offer of lifetime care at the highly respected Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, where she could enjoy the company of other elephants in a 300-acre, natural enclosure. Instead, the Zoo claims that a multi-year, multi-million dollar makeover of its elephant facilities covering just 4 acres will suffice.

So far in 2008, baby elephants have died at both the Montgomery Zoo and San Diego Zoo, underscoring the fact that, far from being safe and secure, captivity is a dangerous place for these large, yet vulnerable, animals.

“Keeping elephants in captivity in zoos and circuses is cruel and dangerous,” says Will Travers, Chief Executive Officer of Born Free USA. “We must do the best we can for these unfortunate individuals by retiring them to Sanctuaries which place their long-term welfare as the top priority. However, ultimately I believe the only place this majestic species truly belongs is in the wild.”

Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute is a national non-profit animal advocacy organization working to conserve and protect wildlife in the US and globally through legislation, litigation and public education. Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader on exotic animal legislation and a member of the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition and the Species Survival Network. More information can be found at www.bornfreeusa.org and www.bornfreeusa.org/ringling.


Zibby Wilder, Born Free USA, 916.267.7266

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