“Smart ele, I wouldn’t want to have to do stupid tricks to entertain humans either, so I too would have tried to run away…this elephants is trying to tell us something…they don’t belong in the circus. That could have ended tragically, either human casualties or the elephant having to be shot….wild animals don’t belong on the steets of towns or cities, the belong in the wild”

WELFARE campaigners have demanded the banning of all large, wild animals from Irish circuses after an elephant wandered into a retail centre car park and made a dash for a busy road.

The incident in Blackpool Retail Park in Cork involved an adult elephant from Courtney Brothers’ Circus.The female, named ‘Baby’, had been grazing in a storage area near the circus tent when she wandered into the nearby car park.

She made a dash towards Blackpool Shopping Centre and a busy junction on the Cork-Limerick road. The animal initially failed to respond to commands from one handler, and a second handler rushed to the scene.After a few minutes, the elephant allowed itself to be led back to its grazing area.

The incident was captured on a mobile phone by a man in a nearby Blackpool office block.Eyewitness Paul Dunbar, who works for Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch, said people were initially shocked and then worried. “It was quite a dangerous situation,” he said.Circus official Michelle Courtney last night insisted the incident was being blown out of proportion.

“Handlers were with ‘Baby’ at all times,” she said.”There was absolutely no danger or risk.”But animal welfare lobby Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) warned the incident represented “a wake-up call” over the continuing involvement of large, wild animals in Irish circuses. “(This shows) the need for local councils to adopt proper legislation to ensure circuses are banned on grounds of animal welfare and public safety,” ARAN spokesman John Carmody said.- Ralph Riegel

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