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PLUS: Elephants: broken spirits
Elephants in circuses are denied everything that is natural and important to them. Many elephants become dysfunctional, unhealthy, depressed, and aggressive as a result of the cruel conditions in which they are kept. In the wild, elephants often nurse their babies until 5 years of age, and the babies are raised in a nurturing environment in which they are protected and comforted. Daughters stay with their mothers for life, and sons stay until they reach adolescence.
At some circuses, still-nursing baby elephants (usually 18 to 24 months of age) are captured rodeo-style, roped around all four legs, tethered neck-to-neck to an anchor elephant, and dragged from their mothers. From this point forward, their relationship with their mother is abruptly terminated and every movement, every instinct, and every natural behavior is subject to discipline.
Elephants are so intensely emotional and protective that it is well documented that they experience great sadness over losing their young, and it must horrify them to watch their babies tormented in servitude.
Most elephants used by circuses and zoos were captured in the wild and forced to leave their freedom and families behind. Some people mistakenly believe that captive breeding will help prevent elephants from becoming extinct, but elephants who are born in the breeding centers of circuses and zoos (also known as captive-born elephants) can never be returned to the wild.
Animals used in circuses live a dismal life in which they are dominated, confined, and violently trained. Workers routinely beat, shock, and whip them until they learn to perform meaningless tricks that are confusing to them.