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Ringling Unloads Old, Ailing Elephants

Written by PETA | June 9, 2011

Zina and Jewel, two aging elephants who have spent nearly their entire lives with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (Jewel since 1954 and Zina since 1972), have been “donated” by the circus to the Little Rock Zoo. Some “retirement”: The Little Rock Zoo still uses the cruel and archaic free-contact system to control elephants, which means that Zina and Jewel have not escaped the bullhooks and chains.

In testimony during a trial to answer charges that Ringling’s elephant handling practices violated the federal Endangered Species Act, the circus’s general manager admitted Zina and Jewel (and five other elephants) were all chained by two legs in a concrete barn at Ringling’s Florida breeding and “retirement” center for 16 hours a day. Another witness testified that he had to cover more than 20 oozing wounds with Wonder Dust (a gray powder used to camouflage wounds) after Zina was beaten with a bullhook.

Considering the long hours spent chained on hard concrete floors, it’s no wonder that Jewel is suffering from severe arthritis. Many of the elephants used by Ringling have joint problems, like Sara, who is far younger than Jewel but already suffering from painful lameness, which will likely lead to arthritis as she ages.

Ringling raked in millions of dollars over the decades that it hauled these elephants around the country, but instead of retiring them to a sanctuary, the circus “rewarded” them by dumping them at a zoo for more years of exploitation.

Please never buy a ticket to the circus, and ask the Little Rock Zoo to stop using bullhooks and chains on elephants.

Written by Jennifer O’Connor

Commenting is closed.
  • Suzanne Linda Morovic says:

    As a child I was taken to the zoo for the first and only time and I did not like it. I thought it was too noisy and the animals just didn’t seem right how they performed. No animal should have to suffer for the sake of entertainment. I wish all circuses would be shut down. There are so many other forms of entertainment for families today.

  • Deb Basha says:

    I just spoke to someone in person who is affliated with the LR Zoo, and was told this is not true. I see the video from Ringling Bros.and am always proud to take part in the circus protests. Where is the footage or photos from the Little Rock handlers?What I see displayed shows nothing concerning the zoo. I am a big supporter of PETA, and want the details anout the LR zoo, as we frequently allow our beach home to be a part of the LR zoo fund raiser, specifically the elephant enclosure fund.

  • Marlène says:

    The elephants should be free and have stress-free life. Please stop using objects that hurt them!

  • Deb says:

    We have donated our 5 star beach home at auction to benefit the Little Rock Zoo. I am saddened to hear of these mean, cruel, and hateful methods being used on natures most wonderful creatures. FIRe anyone involved. I am looking into this further. 🙁

  • Samantha Vadnais says:

    I just guess I assumned that these elephants would be treated like honored guests in their new environment. What is wrong with you people, these animals have been harmed enough by their treatment in the circus, give them the break they deserve and treat them gently now…..please

  • pdkart4u2 says:

    i’m sick to death of people, animals would never do what we do.

  • Frances says:

    It’s hard to believe we haven’t moved past this awful practice of using beautiful animals to perform like clowns in circuses. Come on people, let’s end this. We don’t need to do this.

  • Ann K says:

    These animals belong in a sanctuary — not a zoo. Why is the stupid zoo using bullhooks and chains on elephants?


    this is total abuse of poor animals

  • Sonia says:

    Please, stop hurting animals, they are innocent creatures and can feel pain and sadness and depression and LOVE! just as YOU do!

  • Sarah says:

    I have already sent an e-mail to the zoo, we must keep an eye on them and make sure that these animal have the treatment and care they deserve….PETA please update us on this!

  • Hafsa Majid says:

    Please stop using these harmless animals.. they have a right to their own lives…

  • Carol says:

    I have just sent an email to the Little Rock Zoo. I hope all of you have done the same so they will be inundated with emails. Maybe then it will dawn upon them that they are living in an island of ignorance and change their ways. As I live in the Netherlands I am not able to picket outside the Zoo, but again hopefully people in the vicinity will take action.

  • mldsandler says:

    Why must this happen? Zoos are supposed to be CARETAKERS of animals. There is nothing caring about beating, chaining and scarring these pour helpless creatures. Please stop. If you cannot care for them in a more humane manner you should not have accepted them.

  • Judy Hensley says:

    Please stop using harmful bullhooks and chains on these beautiful, loving animals. Treat them they way you would want your loved ones treated.

  • terri taylor says:

    stop this torment… please!

  • maria says:

    please give these elephants the life they deserve. It is time to stop these cruel practices. No living creature should have to endure cruelty. It is never acceptable.

  • Katia says:

    Animal Rights Now !!!

  • Trysh says:

    Stop using bullhooks and chains on these beautiful, majestic creatures. They do not deserve this kind of abuse. Its disgusting!!

  • Romina says:

    Please, leave animals alone! Circuses should be fun, and they can still be, even without animals. Use people performers instead!

  • rani chandi says:

    Using bullhooks and chains on elephants are barbaric and unacceptable. Violence towards these wonderfully, intelligent animals and degrading. PLEASE STOP THIS ABUSE!!

  • billie says:

    This is horrendous and tortureous mis treatment. Do the right thing and stop is unacceptable activity now.

  • Anja Kit says:

    Stop abuse and get these alephants to a sanctuary

  • Debbra Parson says:

    STOP the ABUSE!!!

  • Serena says:

    This is cruel and archaeic treatment of these intelligent beings, please put an end to this inhumane, disgusting treatment of Elephants !

  • Virginie says:

    Please give the link to urge them to stop this suffer…may I write directly to little rock zoo through web site? Or you have link !? Let mr know

  • Farleysis says:

    This was my comment to the zoo: Please stop using bull hooks and chains on elephants. This is an archaic training and handling practice that should be outlawed as animal abuse. Any abused animal, including the very large, headstrong elephants, can come around and be controlled with gentle, loving patience. And with that gentle loving patience, will come greater rewards from your animals than you ever could have expected. Imagine how grateful you would be to your new handlers, given freedom and love after years of servitude, beatings and mistreatment. You have a real opportunity here to start their lives anew. If you never use, or stop using the tools of repression and pain on these animals, they have the chance to become happy, fun loving attractions in your facility instead of an insurance risks if one mistake happens. Please take this to heart.

  • Keri says:

    I couldn’t even watch the video attachment…this is so awful…so sad. This is absolutely unacceptable! I hate the circus…amazed people actually still go. These poor elephants deserve to retire somewhere open, free, and beautiful. Wish something could be done to relocate these two girls to a sanctuary!

  • Z says:

    I am actually from North Little Rock, AR, and I have been to the zoo twice since these wonderful animals were given to us. THIS SITE IS EXAGERRATING THE ISSUE. the “bullhooks” in question are no more damaging than the tools used to break a horse for riding. they don’t even puncture the skin. the bullhooks used to train the elephants in places like Thailand, however, are brutal and never sterilized. these elephants at my zoo are treated humanely, and with as much respect as possible. the whole point of the “cruel and archaic” system of training is that without the training, there would be no way for the handlers to communicate with the animals. to put this in perspective, when training a dog, do you reward it for pooping on your carpet? do you ignore it? no, you say “bad dog.” and then reinforce pooping outside. the same applies here, but instead of picking up a dog, they have to guide an animal as big and heavy as a truck. so stop whining about these elephants. they had a hard life, but now they get food, water, and plenty of entertainment in place where they won’t be pressure to perform. the aren’t forced out so they can be seen, they aren’t forced in to be fed. They go where they want, and for the most part,do what they want. on more than one occasion, the handlers would come out, explain that elephants weren’t in the mood for visitors, apologize and then offer to give a discount for the next time you came to the zoo. they aren’t being mistreated.

  • Elle Durow says:

    Bullhooks and chains are an extremely cruel way to handle any creature. These intelligent and graceful creatures deserve to live comfortable, peaceful lives without being subjected to pain and suffering.

  • Shamim says:

    please stop using the bullhook and painful training on animals.

  • Sheela Ram-Prasad says:

    This is just barbaric treatment and unacceptable. These elephants do not deserve to be treated like that. “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”–M. Gandhi

  • PinkySue says:

    STOP the use of bullhooks and chains on elephants NOW! I will urge everyone to boycott any circus that continues in this practice!

  • Holly Zintel says:

    You know who beats elephants with bullhooks? The crazy villain in Water For Elephants. That guy was a psycho, the whole audience wanted to bash in his face with a shovel. Don’t be the fool from Water For Elephants. Come on. You don’t want people to feel the need to bash your face in with a shovel.

  • diane Carvello says:

    I feel the same as all up above, especially what Brittnie had to say. All was really good. I just really hate the fact, that these elephants did there part, now its time for humans to do there part and be nice, kind and let them live and be free from harm. elephants cry and they have very nurturing feelings … enough just stop the cruelty to them. God watches, you all who have been cruel to animals, you will be judged.

  • MARY says:

    Why do they have to resort into hurting these elephants just to obey their orders??? I agree with Sprittalker, there must be a way to humanely train them.

  • Devayani says:

    Dear Sir/Madam, Please stop this barberic acts on poor helpless animals…Thank u…

  • Edwin de Castro-Lares says:

    Your resolution in sustaining such terrible treatment, is a direct measure to your pathetic hollowness as beings. So start being human, be something more that beings and fully stop all cruel tratment to other animals, regardless of species. Simply STOP IT ! ! !