Friday, November 13, 2009

Circus animals on the lam

Lisa Falzon, "Jailbreak - Leopard and Girl Circus Escape" (10" x 8" giclée print).

My Mom and Del are having their 8th Annual Multi-Family Yard Sale today and tomorrow, so I have taken some time out from people-watching to do my blog post, which this morning is about escaped circus animals. Plenty of stories in the weird news, some of them quite recent and the majority of them about elephants - which luckily are usually very docile and easy to round up.

Just the other day, thieves in Wuppertal, Germany, stole a van and abandoned it after crashing into a road sign. Police recovered the vehicle and towed it to a depot, where the van and the 5-year-old lion inside were claimed by his tamer from Circus Probst. "Caesar" was none the worse for wear and was soon back on stage. An altogether different ending in Woodbury, New Jersey, in 1919. A lioness named Lucy killed her trainer at the Cook Brothers Circus, escaped her cage, causing the audience to flee in panic and prompting her pursuit through the town by a posse of men who shot and killed her.

In the Netherlands in June 2008, a giraffe kicked a hole in a cage, breaking out with 15 camels, 2 zebras, and an undisclosed number of llamas and potbellied pigs. The exotic herd was found roaming a nearby Amsterdam neighborhood at 5:30am and were rounded up by police and circus workers with dogs. A historic incident in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1887 in which multiple circus animals escaped had a much worse outcome. John Robinson's circus train wrecked, killing one worker and injuring 2 others, and releasing 2 lions, a leopard, a tiger, and a hyena. Panicked people tried shooting and stoning the animals, who were as frightened as they were and were quickly coaxed back into cages by the lion tamer. The tiger had been hit by 3 bullets, the hyena lost half its tail, 2 moutain lions and a pair of ibexes were killed, 6 monkeys were unaccounted for, and a giant boa constrictor had been cut to pieces under the wheels of the train.

Earlier this month in Enid, Oklahoma, a husband and wife were returning from church in their SUV when they suddenly and unexpectedly came upon an elephant crossing the highway. With no time to brake, they swerved and sideswiped the 29-year-old animal, which was treated by a local veterinarian for a broken tusk and a leg wound. It had escaped from the Family Fun Circus at the fairgrounds when being loaded onto a trailer with another animal. Two other elephants owned by the same man as this recent escapee got spooked by a tornado-producing storm and broke loose in Wakeeny, Kansas, endingup in two different backyards.

An elephant that broke free in September 2008 while being fed at the Circo Union circus in Mexico City did not fare so well - and neither did the bus driver who struck it. Both died and four passengers were injured when 40-year-old Hilda crashed through a gate, stumbled onto a major road, and was hit. In 2007, a 30-year-old female elephant survived her escape from the Hungarian National Circus in Balatonlelle, Hungary, although her owner had to reimburse a greengrocer for the 40 kilos of produce "Szandra" ate before being recaptured without incident as she grazed in a local field.

In 2004 in Hensingborg, Sweden, animal trainers from Germany's Circus Mustang lost control of 4 elephants who trampled the garden and destroyed the hedge of the man next door, who filed a police complaint because they turned the yard into dirt and could have injured his infant son who often naps in his carriage in the yard. Three of the elephants were quickly removed, but the fourth had to be dragged away using a tractor. The report does not mention whether this is the same elephant blamed in an earlier complaint lodged against the circus for trampling a 10-year-old boy's bicycle.

An elephant escaped the Garden Bros. Circus in Newmarket, Ontaria, Canada, in 2007, and fertilized a woman's garden, but she was not amused. When the power supply to their electric fence was cut, "Minnie" stayed put and "Susie" was content to sample some grass on the outskirts of the complex, but "Bunny" found her way to Shu Mai's yard and ate a tree and a bunch of lilies before she was noticed. "The circus sent someone to pick it up," said Shu Mei. "They gave me tickets for the show. I'll see the elephants there."

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