LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS... welcome to the big top blog of Douglas McPherson, author of CIRCUS MANIA, the book described by Gerry Cottle as "A passionate and up-to-date look at the circus and its people."

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Lion takes swipe at trainer Thomas Chipperfield in Wales as elephants rampage in Denmark

Car charged for parking in the wrong place

It’s been a bad week for circus animals as a series of headline-making incidents around the world showed the dangers of working with such unpredictable performers.

In eastern Belarus, an elephant was descending backwards from a pyramid of pedestals at the Dziva Circus when it lost its footing and crashed onto its side just inches from front row spectators. A few more feet and they would have been crushed by the falling pachyderm, which typically weigh three or four tons.

Video taken from ringside shows two other elephants entering the ring and going to the aid of the fallen animal, which struggled to return to its feet after the three-metre tumble.

Elephant rampage

In Denmark, three elephants from Cirkus Arenas went on the rampage after being taken for a swim in the sea. Video footage of the incident at Karrebaeksminde was taken by a bystander and shows one of the elephants chasing a man and then taking out its anger on a parked car. First the elephant shows its strength by giving the vehicle a side swipe with its tusks and trunk, lifting the car onto two wheels. Next the elephant lifts the front of the car and shoves it backwards several metres as if it were as light as a toy.

The elephants’ trip to the sea is an annual event and the circus issued a statement blaming onlookers for getting too near the animals and parking where they shouldn’t have.

Lion attack

In Wales, Britain’s last travelling tiger trainer, Thomas Chipperfield, had a narrow escape when a male lion called Tsavo took a swipe at his handler’s head during a show in Wales called An Evening With Lions and Tigers.

Video taken by an audience member shows Chipperfield leaning forward to kiss the lion, which was towering above him on a pedestal. At first, Tsavo leaned forward as if to return the kiss, then suddenly swiped his left paw at the trainer’s head. Chipperfield, who has worked with big cats all his life, ducked away from the swipe and continued his performance without breaking a sweat. Talking to audience members after the show, the trainer fear forgot said the swipe was “nothing.”

Tsavo - was just "play fighting."
The show’s director Anthony Beckwith told local paper The Daily Post, “Things like this happen all the time. At the end of the day lions are animals and do attack, but no damage was caused and they’ve never hurt Thomas. It is more like play-fighting rather than aggression. The animals see Thomas as one of their own but because they are animals they don’t realise that they weigh 400lbs and when they do take a swipe it can knock you back. It’s like if you have a horse, it’s likely at some stage they’ll step on your toes or if you have a house cat they might scratch you.”

Chipperfield said much the same thing in February when he wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph titled Why Lions Attack Their Trainers. His current show is intended to educate the public about the conservation of big cats in the wild and the way they are trained for circus and film work in captivity.

An Evening With Lions and Tigers is in Wrexham until Sunday 26 July. Box office: 07821155513.

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