During a Shriners Circus show Saturday at a multipurpose arena near St. Louis, Missouri, three elephants were spooked by a loud noise, and took off into the parking lot.
The three female pachyderms escaped their handlers during the "ride-an-elephant" segment of the Moolah Shrine event at the Family Arena in St. Charles, though no one was on top of any of them when the incident occurred.
Witness Sally Schmiz commented, "Things started shaking, When I looked up I saw three elephants coming toward us. These huge elephants litterally went through these huge RVs. Then they went through two trucks breaking mirrors off, and panels off and breaking the windows."
No one was injured during the escape, and the elephants' handlers were quickly able to corral them. Dennis Kelley, President of Moolah Shriners Circus, said, "The elephants were loose for a brief period. The handlers were able to occupy the animals and they are resting comfortably at this time."
Circus elephants tend to like to make a run for it, and the St. Louis incident is not at all unprecedented. Here an elephant takes off from a gig in Ireland:
The use of elephants in circuses has been a controversial subject - the United States Humane Society has accused circuses of abusing and traumatizing their animals. During his testimony to a U.S. federal court in 2009, Barnum & Bailey Circus CEO Kenneth Feld admitted that circus elephants are beaten behind their ears, under their chins and on their legs with bull hooks. Feld explained that these practices are in place to protect the trainers.
In a statement a Shriners spokesperson commented, "The elephants were loose on the parking lot for a brief period. And they are resting comfortably at this time. That's the only statement I have." The circus continued, and the errant elephants were back to work on Sunday.
Witness Schmiz added, "Thank God no children were on top of them for rides, or adults too. You could tell they were upset."
Image via YouTube.