Saturday, February 22, 2014

Day at the Circus

The other day I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at the circus with an animal science class! I must say, the benefit of my major has been getting to work with SO many different kinds of animals. I have never thought highly of the circus but it was an incredible learning experience to hear from the circus' vet, animal behaviorist and specific trainers.
All of the animals are not asked to do any task they would not preform in the wild. The animals are trained using positive reinforcement in order to learn when to preform these tasks. Also if an animals does not want to preform that day or ever, then they don't.
It was amazing being so close to the Asian elephants. As soon as a group of us were in front of them they started showing off breaking sticks or rolling tires around! The youngest elephant on this show's circuit is 7-years-old and the oldest is in her 50s.
The trainer took time to explain each of the elephants show moves and how they are natural behaviors that would be demonstrated in the wild. One that really surprised me was that elephants will stand on their head in the show. I always thought this was a show taught trait. However, in the wild an elephant will stand on  it's head to squish a predator!
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey elephants have a successful breeding program for this highly endangered species. The elephants are raised at the Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida and will return there when they decide they are tired of the circus life or when it is time to retire!
I was thankful to learn more about the life of the circus and see it in a different light!
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