Elephants absent from this year’s Royal Canadian Circus due to animal-rights pressure

Elephants absent from this year’s Royal Canadian Circus due to animal-rights pressure

The prospect of having a pair of Asian elephants detained at the U.S. border has stopped a touring circus from bringing their prized proboscideans to Canada.

Despite having the “proper clearances” on this side of the border, the Tarzan Zerbini Family Circus, touring as the Royal Canadian Circus, pressure from U.S. animal activist groups turned Shelly’s and Marie’s return to America into a grey area.

Their absence from under the Big Top breaks a 30-year tradition of touring in Canada.

“We weren’t willing to take that risk,” circus spokeswoman Cathy Sproule said, adding they had “dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s” and had a three-year permit to transport the elephants between the two countries.

“We finally had to say we’re just going to move on with our fabulous show without the elephants.

“It’s disappointing, but we know they are cared for and that’s the most important thing. As long as the animals are fine, no matter where they are, is all we care about.”

Controversy over the use of live animals in circuses across the globe is no longer the elephant in the room, with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus retiring their parade of elephants last month.

Edmonton’s own elephant fracas has raged for years.

Last year, the Edmonton Valley Zoo was inducted into an international animal rights group’s “Hall of Shame” for its treatment of Lucy, its lone elephant.

Lucy has been alone since the zoo sent away her companion of 18 years, an elephant named Samantha, in 2007.

As for Shelly and Marie, the pair of 48-year-olds have been returned to the circus’ home base in Missouri and in true performer fashion, the show will go on for the remainder of acrobats, aerialists, illusionists and daredevils drawn from as far away as Kyrgyzstan and Cuba.

Friday marks the first of seven shows in Edmonton.

“The show isn’t designed around the elephants, (it) is a world-renowned show about tradition and families performing for families,” Sproule said.

“The elephants don’t go away, they are part of our family. We care for them like they are family members.”

In 1984, the Zerbini family established Two Tails Ranch, a 25-hectare elephant sanctuary located in Florida. In 2009, the family opened it to the public “to have educational programs available for both elephant lovers as well as professionals in the elephant field.”

jgraney@postmedia.com

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