Community Corner: The Circus Comes To The Bay Area

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elephant center

Elephant calf April with her mom at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation. (Ringling)

KCBS Community Corner
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Elephants, tigers, zebras, and clowns. Yes, the circus is coming to town!

Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey are coming to the Bay Area August 17th through September 11th.

When the circus comes to town it could be greeted with mixed feelings – those excited to see “the greatest show on earth” and those concerned with the treatment and welfare of the animals.

Ringling’s Manager of Animal Stewardship Trudy Williams, who has more than 20 years experience in elephant care and management and is part of the staff at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation, said they are proud of the way they treat and care for the animals.

KCBS’ Connie C. Kim interviews Trudy Williams:

Williams grew up with elephants in her backyard and she has witnessed the births of 14 Asian elephant calves and has raised many of them from infancy, adolescence and into adulthood, so her relationship with the elephants is a very personal one.

“I get to see their first step and the way they learn how to use their trunk and throw dirt on their back. It’s very exciting,” Williams talks about her experience with the elephants.

The Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation is a 200-acre facility in Polk County, Florida, that is dedicated to the research, retirement and reproduction of the Asian elephant which is an endangered species.

When asked about undercover video footage of animal training sessions where whips, electric prods, bullhooks, and other painful tools are used, Williams responds by saying these clips are taken out of context and these tools are not used on a daily basis. Some of these may be used to protect the trainers if their safety is in question, but they are not used to train the animals.

“We’re committed to treating all of our animals with the utmost respect that they deserve. Sometimes people will act unprofessionally and this is caught on video and it can be made to look much worse than it is,” Wiliams explains. “We are proud of the way we treat our animals and the care we provide for them.”

Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey also owns the largest privately owned train in the world. Each unit is a mile long, custom built for animals, equipped with heaters and fans. Handlers travel with the animals so the train is kept clean and the animals are taken out for exercise and always have fresh water during their cross country tour.

They are also subject to unannounced inspections by city, state and federal officials.

Although she loves working with elephants, Williams admits the day to day activity at the center is a lot of hard work. The average female weighs 8000 lbs, consumes 150-200 lbs of food a day, and require lots of cleaning.

But it’s the love of the animal that keeps her going.

The Center also provides an intern program where Williams gets to share her passion with young, bright-eyed trainers.

“It’s very rewarding to have somebody else growing into having that bond with elephants.”

The upcoming show, “Fully Charged” will be filled with electric effects, tigers, horses, zebras, 8 elephants, sparkly blankets, and more.

“It’s always a very good feeling when other people appreciate the hard work you put into the show,” Williams talks about the animals’ performances like a proud parent.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey
“Fully Charged”
August 17 – September 11, 2011
For more information go to Ringling.com.
To learn more about the Ringling’s Center for Elephant Conservation go to www.elephantcenter.com.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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