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About

On August 29, 2016, the San Antonio Zoo announced that they had acquired yet a third female, Asian elephant for their exhibit, following on the heels of their recently formed relationship with Feld Entertainment, owners of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus and Nicole.

Because of Karens's extremely extensive and abusive past in the Blue Unit of the Ringling tour, numerous documented cases of aggression and medical concerns, we are highly concerned about the relationship that will be formed between the two former circus elephants and Lucky. Stay posted for updates as they come.

Major Issues

Lack of Space

The elephant exhibit, recently expanded, still only sits on approximately 0.38 acres. There simply is not enough space for an elephant to properly exercise joints or maintain a healthy weight.

Lack of Shade

Despite the trees added outside of the perimeter of the exhibit and updated tarps, the zoo has done next to nothing to allow the elephants to escape from the heat of the summer Texas sun.

Compact Substrata

The exhibit sits over a layer of limestone, covered with sand and dirt that quickly becomes compact. This can cause immense stress to her joints and feet.

No Quarantine Period

The zoo likely introduced Karen in the same fashion as Nicole: No quarantine and little introduction, despite the 30-90 day recommendation of their own accrediting body.

Lack of Grass

As of late June 2016, the zoo has added a small area of grass around the pool, the first of its amount since 1962 or longer. However, the majority of the exhibit is still sand and dirt.

Antiquated Exhibit

As of mid-2016, there have been minimal improvements to the exhibit. Overall, though, it is still antiquated, landlocked from any true upgrades needed.

Brief History

ORIGIN: THAILAND

BORN: 1969

TRANSFER: 

KAREN WAS WILD-CAUGHT AND PLACED IN A LOGGING UNIT IN THAILAND AS A CALF

BEFORE SHE WAS A YEAR OLD, SHE WAS ACQUIRED BY TREFFLICH'S BIRD AND ANIMAL COMPANY AND TRANSFERRED TO TREFFLICH, NEW YORK 

ON OCTOBER 10, 1969, SHE WAS ACQUIRED BY FELD ENTERTAINMENT

IN MAY 2016, RINGLING RETIRED THEIR ELEPHANTS TO THEIR CONSERVATION CENTER

CAME TO SAN ANTONIO: AUGUST 29, 2016

Concerns

TUBERCULOSIS:

IN 1978, 3 EMPLOYEES OF THE BLUE UNIT WERE DIAGNOSED WITH ACTIVE TB AND ALL ELEPHANTS WERE TESTED

KAREN TESTED POSITIVE FOR TB ANTIBODIES IN 2010 AND WAS BARRED FROM ENTERING TENNESSEE AS A RESULT

AGGRESSION:

KNOWN AGGRESSION TOWARD HANDLERS AND OTHER ELEPHANTS

History of Abuse

Karen comes from an extremely abusive history, causing a documented, aggressive personality and extreme psychosis. Below are a few examples from her history. For more information, please see referenced documentation.

A year before Ringling's elephant, Benjamin, died, a keeper struck the young elephant repeatedly with his bullhook in the presence of the adult elephants. Karen, an older elephant, began to clank her leg chains aggressively. Harned stopped hitting Benjamin, the affidavit said. "And then he came over there and he started in on Karen for at least 21 minutes, 23 minutes. He had her, jabbing her under the leg, making her raise her foot up and hold it there, hitting her behind the leg, come up and jabbing her in the side," Rider later testified. "Hooking on the head and behind the ears. It just went on and on."

When Ensley inspected the elephants with famous elephant biologist Joyce Poole and two other experts hired by the plaintiffs, they found "extensive evidence of scarring from bullhook use,” including scar tissue on Karen's jaw where a Ringling video had shown a handler embedding a bullhook so deep that he had trouble removing it.

After moving to Chicago on approximately the fourth or fifth day after arriving, Randy was to stretch out Karen so the crew could clean her. She refused to stretch out and Randy, Adam, Pat, and Steve all took bull hooks and began beating her. Karen had no choice but to submit and the beating continued after she went down.

"[A]fter Pat was done [beating Karen] he asked me to get the Wonder Dust so that he could cover up the bleeding..."

Quotes About Aggression

"Karen is the athletic one; she’s always had talent, but she’s kind of ornery."

“Although she was the most dangerous elephant in the group, she is the one they used in the three- ring adventure where the public is allowed to stand around the elephant with no safety net or other protection around her. Karen had a habit of knocking anyone who came into range, slamming them into the ground, yet they allowed her to have contact with the audience.” 

"Tape is sometimes laid out on the flooring in front of her where she is tethered to mark where people unfamiliar with her shouldn't go. Spray paint is sometimes used on the floor."

"Employees on the animal crew are instructed not to get near her or they could be killed."

"Indeed, FEI’s employees also admitted that because the elephants are wild they are also extremely dangerous. Thus, Mr. Jacobson explained that the reason Karen and Nicole have to be handled in free contact is that this is the only way “to keep the elephants safe from one another and people safe from the elephants,” and that all of the elephant handlers need to carry bullhooks around the elephants when they are off their chains because this is “the only way you can stay safe.”

Documentation

Aggression

Karen has an extensive report of aggression toward keepers, the public, and other elephants since her admittance to the Ringling Brothers in her early years. A few of the more documented cases are outlined below.

  • Habit of slapping people with her trunk
  • Karen bit an elephant’s ear
  • Known to knock people around
  • New Ringling employees were advised to keep their distance from Karen
  • Karen likes her spaces and doesn’t like strangers
  • Dangerous when chained
  • Not cooperative
  • Reputation for being dangerous
  • Noted as ornery
  • Karen was chained “because she gets playful with some of the other elephants.”

Medical History

Karen was with the Ringling Brothers Circus from 1969-2016. Until otherwise noted, these records are documented only up until her arrival at the San Antonio Zoo in August 2016.

  • Particular issue with right, hind leg, attributed to ongoing arthritis
  • Inflammation of thighs
  • Severe lameness
  • Swollen muscles
  • Hind feet worn down to pink tissue
  • Drags feet when she walks
  • Cracked toenails
  • Chronic nail bed abscesses
  • Overgrown cuticles
  • Overgrowth on soles of feet
  • Swollen eye
  • Opacity in eye
  • History of severe stereotypic behavior
  • Cut foot on a bolt during a show
  • Slipped during performance
  • Not eating or drinking, colicky
  • Cramps
  • Passing undigested hay
  • Not effectively grinding food with molars

Karen's Report can be found on pages 2-13