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For Immediate Release: 11/21/08

Ringling elephant birth re-ignites debate over captive elephant breeding

Sacramento, CA — Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute (Born Free USA), a national leader in wildlife conservation and animal advocacy, today urged the United States Department of Agriculture to prohibit any future elephant breeding by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus (Ringling) after the circus announced the birth of a baby elephant. Born Free USA is one of the plaintiffs in the groundbreaking federal lawsuit against Ringling for its mistreatment of endangered Asian elephants in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

“Ringling spokespeople regularly congratulate themselves on the number of animals born at its breeding facility, but fail to mention that almost one out of every five elephants born there since 1992 is now dead,” says Nicole G. Paquette, Esq., senior vice president and general counsel for Born Free USA. “With the prospect of a lifetime of bullhook beatings and chaining ahead of them, we pity the elephant babies who survive.”

The federal lawsuit against Ringling, scheduled to commence in February 2009, alleges that the circus employs the cruel practice of using bullhooks to strike elephants and chains to constantly tether and control them. Evidence includes footage of elephants being brutally jabbed with bullhooks and documents from Ringling’s own employees reveal concerns over “an elephant dripping blood all over the arena floor from being hooked.” Additional reports contend that elephants are chained on average more than 26 hours at a time, and sometimes for as much as 60-100 hours, as the circus travels thousands of miles across the country.

Born Free USA recently debunked Ringling’s claims that it supports elephant protection through captive breeding and financial support for elephant herpes virus research when the organization revealed that despite Ringling’s best efforts, ten elephants have died in 2008 in North American zoos and elephant herpes virus is still the number one killer of young captive elephants in the U.S.

“I fail to see how breeding more elephants for use in the circus, especially when captive conditions are so bleak and diseases such as elephant herpes virus are of such concern, qualifies as conservation,” adds Paquette. “While there are no guarantees that breeding will be successful, one thing seems certain—elephants who do survive face a lifetime of misery. To claim a conservation benefit from elephants performing in an American circus is preposterous. Real conservation involves saving elephants in the wild where they belong.”

Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute is a leading 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 http://www.bornfreeusa.org.


Zibby Wilder, Born Free USA, 916.267.7266

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