Three female elephants escaped from the Moolah Shrine Circus in St. Charles’ Family Arena on Saturday and damaged several vehicles as they traipsed along the parking lot. The elephants escaped from the children’s ride section of the circus; fortunately, there were no children on the elephants at the time.
Loud noises from the circus audience may have spooked the animals, according to eyewitnesses. Sally Schmiz, one of the eyewitnesses, said that she felt the ground shake, and when she looked up, she saw the three elephants. The huge animals went through trucks, breaking the mirrors and panels off, and damaging windows.
Karyn Tunnicliff, another witness who was in a car just outside the Family Arena, said that she and her daughter saw people running after the elephants, screaming for the animals to stop. They also saw circus staff trying to run alongside the elephants. Her daughter Allie was able to capture a video of an elephant between cars. Allie also said she saw one of the trainers shout for some treats to lure the elephants with: “We need pretzels!”
After about 45 minutes, the handlers were able to recapture the elephants and bring them back to their enclosures. In a statement, the Shrine Circus said that the elephants “are now resting comfortably in their compound.” No one was hurt during the incident, and the escapees were given the night off.
Dennis Burkholder, the spokesperson for the Shriners, said that the parking lot is the private property of the circus and therefore is not accessible to the public. The vehicles parked belong to circus performers and staff. The show was ongoing when the elephants escaped, so the lot was almost empty.
The Moolah Shrine Circus is a regular event in St. Louis, and had eight performances this year. The proceeds of the annual circus benefit the Moolah Shrine Center and its advocacies for children.
When Elephants Attack! (graphic)
Image via YouTube