Friday, March 21, 2008

Circus second to nature parks

The Cornwall Standard Freeholder

Posted March 18, 2008

The Standard-Freeholder made three trips to the circus this past weekend based on a tip there may be people protesting the poor treatment of animals in the Greatest Show on Earth.

No such luck. But we still got to watch the show and take some photos of the animals doing some nifty tricks.

Since no one wanted to voice their opinion of the Garden Bros. Circus, we thought we'd judge for ourselves.

Ringmaster Ian Garden noted his disappointment at the poor turnout. He's accustomed to playing to big crowds. Either the shows at the Cornwall Civic Complex were victims of March Break trips or people in the area aren't so enchanted with watching animals perform for entertainment any more.

Animals seem a lot more interesting, and possibly happier, in their own habitats, or at least in zoos such as African Lion Safari near Hamilton that attempt to simulate those habitats.

The animal residents get to roam freely within the confines of the "nature game park" on two to 20-hectare reserves, while humans must stay in their vehicles.

While we didn't see the entire Garden Bros. show, the penultimate act involved three grown-up elephants being led around inside a circus ring no more than 40 feet in diameter. Seemingly the toughest and most awkward part was when they each were directed by their handler to stand on large metal stools, maybe four or five feet wide, on all four feet.

Looks very uncomfortable for multi-ton pachyderms with legs the width of tree trunks.

The next elephant ballet had one of them lying down on its side, then another sat on its colleague's head. Why this is considered impressive is anyone's guess. It just summoned up memories of young siblings wrestling each other into submission.

Don't get the wrong idea. This piece isn't meant to diminish the accomplishments of these well-trained elephants and their handlers. Their act might seem kind of demeaning, old and tired, like it has been done before many times in many different circuses, which it probably has, but it's likely all brand new and amazing to many of the young spectators. The long hours and patience it takes the trainers and elephants to learn to work together and perfect the act must be enormous and continually testing the nerves of both.

Although it may not be the most natural of relationships between these two giants, both literally and figuratively, of the animal kingdom, getting it to work is an achievement in itself, whether you agree with it or not.

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