Circus life takes a toll on wild animals' health

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London, May 21 (ANI): Elephants, lions and tigers might be considered the stars of a circus show, but these wild animals are least suited to life in captivity, cited the first global study of animal welfare in circuses.

The survey concluded that wild animals, on average, spend just 1 to 9 per cent of their time training, and the rest confined to cages, wagons or enclosures typically covering a quarter the area recommended for zoos.

"It's no one single factor. Whether it's lack of space and exercise, or lack of social contact, all factors combined show it's a poor quality of life compared with the wild," New Scientist magazine quoted Stephen Harris of the University of Bristol, UK, and lead researcher of the study, as saying.

According to him, the worst affected animals are elephants, lions, tigers and bears who are often confined to cages where they pace up and down for hours at stretch.

"Even if they are in a larger, circus pen, there's no enrichment such as logs to play with, in case they use them to break the fence and escape," he said.

Even travelling takes a toll on the animals' health, and their itineraries could also turn out to be gruelling.

The study even cited data showing that concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol in saliva from circus tigers remains abnormal up to 6 days after transport, and up to 12 days in tigers who've never travelled before.

The researchers analysed 153 European and North American circus trips, and found that troupes only stayed at each single location for an average of a week before moving on, with an average of almost 300 kilometres between locations.

The animals are often kept in conditions drastically different from their natural habitat even after reaching their destinations.

Elephants can be shackled for 12 to 23 hours per day when not performing, in areas from just 7 to 12 square metres and very often, they could only move as far as the chain would let them- just 1 to 2 metres.

The researchers also found evidence showing that circus elephants, lions, tigers, bears and even parrots adopt repetitive abnormal movements and pacing, called sterotypies.

Also, the animals suffer ill health both from confinement and from the tricks they learn to perform.

"There is no evidence to suggest that the natural needs of non-domesticated animals can be met through the living conditions and husbandry offered by circuses. Neither natural environment nor much natural behaviour can be recreated in circuses," concluded the study. (ANI)

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