Frightened Elephant Escapes Circus, Roams Montana Streets

( – An escaped Asian elephant stopped traffic in Butte, Montana, on Tuesday, April 16th, after the sound of a car backfiring spooked the 58-year-old pachyderm. The elephant, known as Viola, was in town as part of a traveling circus act and briefly broke away from its handlers before being recovered. Members of the circus team were washing the elephant near the roadside, not far from the Butte Civic Center, when the sound of a car backfiring caused the elephant to take off in alarm. It is not clear how the animal was restrained during bathing, if at all.

Footage taken by shocked residents and CCTV cameras shows the elephant walking quickly through the town while being pursued by a handler with a long cane-like stick. According to one local, it took about ten minutes for the handler to be able to steer the creature back into its circus trailer. The elephant appeared to amble along the road, avoiding walking into any cars or people, and at one point stopping to eat some grass. The police were not called out to assist and the elephant was recaptured without the use of tranquilizers.

The Jordan World Circus were able to perform their scheduled shows at 4 pm and 7 pm in the Civic Center that day as planned, with the venue’s manager describing the circus team as “very professional”. Animal rights organizations, however, have voiced their objections to the show’s use of animals. Animal advocates PETA released a statement decrying what they called “decades of abuse” endured by Viola the elephant, claiming that the company that supplies elephants to the Jordan World Circus has been caught on camera giving electric shocks to elephants and beating them. PETA went on to say that the elephant supplier, Carson & Barnes Circus, has been cited for more than 100 violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Montana still permits the use of animals, including exotic animals, in circus performances, but some states such as California, Colorado, and New Jersey have banned the use of some or all animals in such performances.

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