Lives of Elephants in Circuses

Posted on by PETA

A new inspection of 16 circuses in India – spanning nine months, conducted by a team that included representatives from PETA India and Animal Rahat and that was authorised by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) – revealed miserable conditions for all animals who are forced to perform in circuses.

Circuses are classified under zoo collections per the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. PETA therefore created a separate report about elephants in Indian circuses and is calling upon the Central Zoo Authority to confirm a ban on the use of elephants in circuses by enforcing its circular dated 7 November 2009, which bans the keeping of elephants in zoos.

Of the circuses that were inspected, 12 had elephants present at the time of inspection. (Two circuses, the Great Royal Circus and the Gemini Circus, use elephants but did not have them present on the day of the inspection.) The inspection findings revealed miserable conditions for elephants who are forced to perform in circuses in India and apparent violation of laws. The abuses include the following:

  • Nearly constant chaining, including with spikes, resulting in abrasions and other injuries
    An elephant with the Rambo Circus is cruelly tethered with a spiked hobble.

An elephant with the Jumbo Circus is chained by both his front feet.

Some circuses, such as the Rambo Circus, chain elephants by three legs, including their forelimbs and one hind limb.

An elephant with the Moonlight Circus suffers from leg abrasions as a result of tethering.

An elephant with the Moonlight Circus suffers from leg abrasions as a result of tethering.

An elephant with the Amar Circus suffers from hardened skin as a result of constant tethering.

An elephant with the Jamuna Circus suffers from a cut as a result of tethering.

  • Elephants subjected to routine physical abuse, including with weapons

At the Rambo Circus, ankuses were found in the shed where elephants are kept.

An ankus was found at the Amar Circus.

An elephant with the Rambo Circus was found with a hole in her ear, which was caused by being dragged by an ankus.

An ankus is used on an elephant during a performance of the Amar Circus.

A bloody ankus wound was discovered on the face of an elephant with the Rajkamal Circus.

A bloody ankus wound was found on an elephant with the Jumbo Circus.

An ankus wound was found on an elephant with the Rajkamal Circus.

A mahout uses an ankus in the ring at the Rajkamal Circus.

An elephant is hit for defecating while in the ring at the Jumbo Circus.

Metal-tipped spears and wooden sticks were used on elephants at the Moonlight Circus.

A nail-tipped stick and ankuses were used on elephants in the Rambo Circus.

 A circus worker holds a nail-tipped stick at the Kohinoor Circus.

  • The use of visually impaired elephants

Visually impaired Paruh is forced to perform show after show in the SAM Circus.

Paruh is dragged by her ears into the performance area.

  • Elephants with untreated wounds

Suman, the calf with the Moonlight Circus, suffers from neck wounds as a result of tethering. 

Muniya, a 39-year-old elephant with the Great Bombay Circus, suffers from pododermatitis, which has led to the avulsion of one of her nails.

  • Missing elephants and deaths

33-year-old Sadhana died in Jamuna Circus, which lacked a full-time veterinarian.

  • Elephants not registered with the AWBI forced to perform illegally

 Three elephants exhibited in Jumbo Circus in Ranebennur, Karnataka, despite the registration of the elephants having been withdrawn by the AWBI.

This elephant calf, named Suman, is being used by the Moonlight Circus but is not registered with the AWBI.

  • Animals illegally forced to perform acts not registered with the AWBI

An elephant used by the Jamuna Circus is forced to perform a routine that is not registered with the AWBI. 

  • Elephants showed signs of severe psychological distress

One of the frustrated elephants used by the Rambo Circus desperately tries to break free from leg shackles.

  • Drunken mahouts and trainers handling elephants

In the Rajkamal Circus, a drunken elephant trainer is removed from the elephants’ shed by the circus’ senior management personnel.

  • Poor and inadequate food and water

Elephants in the Kohinoor Circus were given filthy, stagnant water.

  • Elephants held captive solely for exhibition purposes 

Many elephants, including those shown here from the Rajkamal Circus, are held captive in circuses solely for exhibition purposes.

Tethered by a chain less than one foot long, this elephant is kept constantly chained at the Rajkamal Circus.

  • Sometimes a lack of shelter

An elephant used by the Jamuna Circus goes without shelter.

  • The Rajkamal Circus illegally kept an elephant tusk.

The broken tusk of an elephant named Surya was found during the inspection of the Rajkamal Circus.

  • The use of elderly elephants

PETA is calling on the AWBI, the Central Zoo Authority and the Ministry of Environment and Forests to permit only circuses with willing human performers by immediately banning the use of all animals in circuses, following in the lead of Bolivia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Cyprus and Greece – countries which have already banned all animal acts from circuses. In the meantime, PETA is also urging state governments and union territories across India to ban the use of animals in their localities.

You can help bring in the ban. Take action today.

For the detailed report, click here.