Circus worker injured by elephant

Friday, July 1st, 2005

Munster Express 1 July 2005
By Michelle Clancy

Attacked circus worker had ‘no place’ with elephants

The circus worker gored and trampled by an African elephants in Tramore on Sunday had been trying to get the animal to ‘perform’ but did not work with elephants, had no place in the animal’s enclosure and had ignored warnings to come out, circus managements have stated.

Thirty-five year-old Paul Dineen, from Ballyheigue in Kerry, is currently in a critical but stable condition at Waterford Regional Hospital, where he was required to undergo emergency surgery on his side and back after the 26-year-old African elephant, Mousse, attacked and struck him in the side and back with her tusks.

The incident occurred as Circus New York prepared for its second last day in Tramore. Mr Dineen, who has been an employee of Circus New York for the last six months, has worked as a tent rigger with various circuses around Ireland for several years.

A spokesperson for Circus New York said the man had been trying to get three elephants in the enclosure to ‘perform’ when the attack occurred and he ignored warnings from circus staff to come out. It is believed the man was waving his arms, raised his voice and he had a stick. The elephants attacked but calmed as soon as its trainer arrived.

“These elephants are all captive-bred in the circus but will only work for their trainer who reared them since they were babies”, commented circus publicity manager Martin Middleton. “The man should not have been in their enclosure and they defended it the same way a dog defends its territory. The elephants do not pose a danger to the public or anyone, they simply acted naturally by defending their habitat.” Circus New York management confirmed that Mousse will continue to perform at the circus.

Members of the gardai, as well as the Health and Safety Authority, are investigating the circumstances surrounding the attack. In the wake of the incident, animal protection campaigners have called for a ban on keeping elephants and other animals in circuses. The Captive Animals’ Protection Society, a UK-based animal protection organisation campaigning for an end to the use of animals in circuses, has called for an immediate ban on the use of elephants and other animals in circuses in the light of the incident.

“Animal circuses clearly present a risk to the health and safety of staff and visitors, in addition to creating huge welfare problems to the animals who are kept in inadequate conditions and transported around the country on a weekly basis”, commented Craig Redmond, Freedom for Animals Campaigns Officer. “Since 1990, around 70 people have been killed by elephants in captivity worldwide, most of them in circuses and zoos. It is clear that keeping such large, powerful animals in conditions where they are not only in close contact with staff and visitors, but also their basic welfare needs are not met, is an accident waiting to happen.”

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