U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sued for Alleged Illegal Tarzan Zerbini Circus Permits

PETA Calls Out Unlawful 'Pay to Play' Policy Allowing the Exportation of Endangered Elephants to Canada

For Immediate Release:
November 24, 2015

David Perle 202-483-7382

Webb City, Mo. – Today, PETA hit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) with a lawsuit for allegedly illegally issuing permits to the Tarzan Zerbini Circus allowing it to export and re-import two endangered Asian elephants for use in Canadian circus tours, in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Administrative Procedure Act, and the FWS’ own regulations. Although the FWS can legally grant exceptions to the ESA when applicants demonstrate that the activity for which a permit is sought will help a species survive, the agency has instead allowed the Tarzan Zerbini Circus to take advantage of its unlawful “pay to play” policy—through which applicants can donate as little as $500 to a conservation organization in lieu of proving that otherwise illegal activities will benefit endangered animals.

“This circus’s transparent attempt to increase its bottom line by shipping elephants across the border should never have warranted a rubber stamp from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” says PETA Foundation Counsel Rachel Mathews. “At a time when audiences everywhere are turning away from circuses that force elephants to perform, PETA’s lawsuit demands that authorities follow the law and their own regulations, which are designed to protect vulnerable animals.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—also warns that the Tarzan Zerbini Circus has a history of exposing elephants and the public to tuberculosis, a disease found in elephants that’s highly transmissible to humans, even without direct contact. Three elephants with the circus were previously quarantined in Ontario and taken out of Canada after U.S. officials alerted Canadian authorities to the fact that they had been in prolonged contact with a tuberculosis-positive elephant.

For more information, please visit PETA.org.


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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind