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Elephants in the Spotlight

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In Defense of Animals

Carnivals of Cruelty – Circuses and Zoos
Nosey the Elephant Needs Your Help!

2015 may be the "year of the elephant" more than any other year thus far. Most of us are now aware that elephants are on the brink of extinction. The poaching crisis death toll rises daily and we are exposed to the heart wrenching images of brutally murdered elephants with their faces hacked off for their tusks.

Less overt, but not necessarily less brutal, is the plight of captive elephants; enduring lifetimes of abuse, exploitation, isolation, violent 'training' practices and invasive breeding assaults – not to mention the decreased longevity related to the horrendous health problems associated with captivity.

Whether in zoos, circuses, or private collections, elephants can – and do - suffer silently and helplessly within physically and psychologically devastating captivity. Who some consider to be among be the most magnificent of animals, are forced to endure, or die from, some of the most demeaning of lives.

Too often, captivity is sold to the public as conservation with the selling slogan being, "to ensure the species' survival." In truth, zoos, circuses and collectors are consumers, more than preservers of elephants. Due to miserably failing breeding problems, zoos look to the wild to restock their dwindling captive elephant populations, therefore creating additional pressures on wild populations already threatened by habitat loss and illegal poaching. The sad truth is, when it comes to captivity, where there is a profit to be made, there is a lie to be sold.

Circus Cruelty Case in Point

Nosey, an African elephant, now 34 years old, has spent the greater part of her life physically and psychologically abused, chained, and tortured through beatings, inhumane living and transport conditions, chains and electric shocks, as well as being kept alone and isolated from other elephants for decades. She is "owned" by the Liebel Travelling Family Circus in Florida. They are guilty of at least 200 citations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture since 1993, for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including one prompted by video footage of Nosey being horrendously beaten. Even after a veterinarian's conclusion that Nosey "... is unnecessarily suffering, permanently disabled, arthritic, crippled, and is knowingly being maimed," Nosey is still shipped around the country forced to work for Liebel's Family Circus of cruelty.

Nosey has, sadly, become somewhat of a "poster child" for circus elephants, representing what so many enslaved elephants endure for endless years. Hopefully, her much deserved retirement to a certified sanctuary will be won with all the people and organizations fighting for her freedom, and there are many.

Ringling Bros. recently announced that it would phase out its elephant acts in its circus by 2018. "There's been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers. A lot of people aren't comfortable with us touring with our elephants," says Alana Feld, vice president of Feld Entertainment, the circus's parent company. Though 2018 is still far off, and their "Conservation Sanctuary" is more than questionable, it is still encouraging news from one of the oldest and cruelest shows on earth! If this ancient exploitation machine is losing their elephant audience traction, there is indeed hope for all captive elephants.

From Zoos and Circuses to Sanctuaries

According to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, as of December 2014, there were 159 African elephants at 39 North American zoos and 139 Asian elephants at 34 zoos in the U.S. and Canada. Since 1991, over 20 zoos in North America have closed their elephant exhibits. Hopefully more will follow thanks to the national guidelines established in 2011 that require some zoos to close their elephant programs by 2017 if they cannot increase their herds and expand their facilities.

Sanctuary is the best that we can offer elephants in captivity. The least we can give elephants is the respect that certified sanctuaries provide through room to roam, social companionship with their chosen elephant friends, and a retirement of peace and comfort, without being forced physically - or through psychological intimidation and coercion –to perform, entertain or serve an audience.

We owe them the freedom and dignity that was taken from them. Until elephants win back their stolen sovereignty, sanctuary is the best, and the least, we can do for them.

Ultimately, the poaching crisis could wake us up to what elephants everywhere are facing, whether having bled to death in the their wild homelands for their tusks, torn from their mothers in Zimbabwe to be sold as traumatized babies to private collectors, (among those who even survive) forced to perform in zoos or to entertain us in the cruel carnivals of circuses.

As we learn more about these majestic, socially complex, and emotionally and cognitively sophisticated animals, will we realize that not only does keeping them in captivity go against their elephant nature, it goes against our humanity.

For more information about Nosey who continues to suffer alone in a U.S. circus, two organizations you can start with are:

Save Nosey Now! and Action for Nosey Now

What you can do:



There are numerous efforts and petitions underway for Nosey. In fact, a march at the USDA office in Washington, DC just took place on June 26th. You can begin to help Nosey by contacting us at IDA or one of the organizations listed above. You can send our automated letter to urge for her retirement with one click here below.

Personalize and submit the form below to email your comments to:

  • Dr. Chester A. Gipson, Deputy Administer of Animal Care, USDA, APHIS
  • Kevin Shea, Administrator, APHIS
  • Tom Vilsak: USDA Secretary of Agriculture

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Please Confiscate Nosey the Elephant Now.

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