The News-Times; Wednesday, March 21, 2012
An elephant comes to Danbury this weekend as part of
the Piccadilly Circus.
What could a child in the Danbury
area learn about an elephant by having it parade around the arena doing
tricks at the beck and call of a trainer?
One thing a child will
learn for sure is that the adults around them believe it's OK to remove
animals from their natural habitats to entertain humans even if it degrades
and humiliates the animals.
Elephants are the largest of all land
mammals, have the largest brains in the animal kingdom and live up to 70
years. They live in tight social units led by a matriarch, and they cry and
play. They have greeting ceremonies and they grieve.
Cirque du Soleil
and the Pickle Family Circus prove it's not necessary to have animals at the
circus, because they create a magical experience without them.
Piccadilly Circus will have other animals besides the elephant, including a
white tiger and racing camels. And it's not the only circus that still has
"animal acts." But since Piccadilly is in town, the spotlight is on it.
I love elephants and take up their banner on behalf of all animals in
I used to work at race tracks and loved being with the
thoroughbreds. Even though I saw how much they loved to run, I don't support
that industry anymore either.
If you must go to the circus this
weekend, peer into the elephant's eye. Do you see a glimmer of joy? You're
likely to see a sad, defeated look.
There are about 400 elephants in
captivity in the U.S., with less than 30 protected in two sanctuaries. The
rest are in circuses, zoos, or used in television or film productions. A few
are privately owned.
The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tenn., is
designed specifically for old, sick or needy elephants retired from zoos and
circuses. It is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
It currently has 14 Asian and
African elephants on more than 2,700 acres in three separate and protected
Many of the elephants bear the physical
and mental scars of living in zoos and performing in circuses, including
post-traumatic stress disorder, tuberculosis, and bad joints and feet from
standing on hard surfaces.
Most adult elephants were brought from
Africa or Asia after being taken from their mothers at a very young age,
which is psychologically traumatic for them, said Rob Atkinson, CEO of the
Their circus lives are counter to their natural lives.
"They should be living in large family groups, communicating with each
other," he said.
Elephants remember the voices of more than 200 other
elephants, have a concept of death and are altruistic, he said. "They are
highly intelligent and recognize themselves in the mirror. In the circus,
they are made to look silly, and it's stressful. The message is all wrong."
The sanctuary's website is
www.elephants.com, and this year it's begun work on a veterinary care
Don't patronize circuses that use animals, and if you want to
donate to a charity, how about the sanctuary so it can expand its herd of
That's a lesson for the kids.