Readers of this morning’s Wilkes-Barre, PA Times Leader and Citizens Voice newspapers, were shocked to learn that an elephant killed his groomer in between shows at the Irem Shrine Circus that is currently playing at the Kingston Armory. According to published reports, “Dumbo” the African elephant, fatally injured the groomer after being startled in the holding area backstage.
Accidents like this have been occurring since man first entered into the business of entertaining audiences using animals who weren’t intended to be “companion pets.” Whether it’s an elephant, lion, tiger or billy goat, the risk exists each time a human comes in contact with a wild animal whether the mammal is trained or not. Circus performers accept that as part of their job.
For most of us, having the opportunity to get up close and see a majestic Asian elephant just a few feet in front of us only happens when the circus comes to town or we visit a zoo. A few years ago when I was doing my pet talk radio program, I had the opportunity to interview one of the elephant trainers for the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus when they were performing in Wilkes-Barre. I learned a lot about how the animals are treated when traveling on the train, when they’re in their stables at the various venues they perform at and the continual care they receive.
The people who work with these remarkable animals form an amazing bond with them. The groomer who cared for Dumbo was reported to sleep on an air mattress next to her. Like any profession, I’m sure there are a few bad apples who tarnish the reputation of those who truly care for the animals and are constantly looking out for their well being. Those are the ones we hear about when the animal rights groups protest. You don’t hear much about the good work that’s done everyday behind the scenes, especially at Ringling’s Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk County, Florida.
No matter what side of the issue of animal rights you’re on, you have to admit that the death that occurred yesterday was an accident caused by a frightened animal. It was not brought on by neglect or abuse as some may want you to think. The groomer woke up every morning knowing full well the risks involved with working with Dumbo but he chose to continue out of the love and bond he had for her, and nobody should be faulted for that. Not even the elephant.