Much like the recent video of elephants who swayed from captivity-induced mental illness while a violinist played in front of them, a video of an elephant named Chuck that is making the rounds online isn’t as sweet as it may seem at first glance. It shows the elephant standing on two legs and dunking a basketball with his trunk.
Chuck, who is only 6 years old—just a child—is held captive at African Lion Safari (ALS), a “drive-through wildlife park” in Ontario, Canada. ALS forces elephants—including babies who are only a few months old—to perform circus-style tricks through the use of metal-tipped clubs called “bullhooks.” A trainer is wielding one of these weapons behind Chuck in the video—a constant reminder to the young elephant that painful punishment awaits if he fails to perform. For elephants who have been “trained” by being beaten with bullhooks—and that’s every elephant who is forced to perform, as there is no other known way to make elephants do tricks—the mere presence of a bullhook is enough to frighten them into complying with the trainer’s demands.
ALS has obtained elephants from notoriously cruel elephant exploiters Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT) and Ringling Bros.—both of which have been caught on video violently beating elephants with bullhooks—and has sent elephants to HTWT, Carson & Barnes, and other circus exhibitors. ALS also rents out animals, including elephants, for the entertainment industry.
Two baby elephants have died at the facility—one of whom was Chuck’s brother—and at least one of their deaths was caused by a stress-related herpes virus. A mother elephant also suffered a miscarriage at ALS, yet they continued to force her to breed. Numerous dangerous incidents have been reported at ALS, including one in which a trainer was crushed to death by an elephant and another in which a 14-year-old boy was injured by an elephant.
Elephants don’t play basketball in nature, and the only reason they perform silly tricks like this is because they know they’ll be beaten if they don’t. Please don’t be duped by this or other cruel animal acts. Forcing animals to perform stunts is a slam flunk.