Camels on the run as circus boss returns to old tricks

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Irish Mail on Sunday,  Corman McQuinn and Isabel Conway

It seems that shamed circus boss, Alexander Scholl, just can’t resist a trick, even when it’s an old one.

He ran into trouble when his Circus Sydney was touring Ireland over the so-called “Llama Drama”, when a group of the South American animals escaped onto the M50. He denied it was a stunt to grab headlines for the circus but, as they say in show business, all publicity is good publicity.

But now, while touring in the Netherlands, Scholl’s circus is making headlines all over again – though this time is was his camels than managed to escape from their pens.

Scholl quit Ireland when footage appeared online of a clearly terrified wallaby being spun  round the dance floor at a birthday in a hotel just 500m from where his circus was performing.

There was an international outcry over its treatment. However Scholl denied ever having allowed one of his wallabies into a nightclub, until the Irish Daily Mail proved her was a liar by obtaining a picture of him doing just that.

This latest incident in the Netherlands bears remarkable similarities to the Llama Drama of 2009.

The circus was performing in the northern town of Burgum last month when three camels made their break for freedom, minutes before the keeper was to parade them round the ring. The escape was short-lived with two local teenagers apparently catching the Siberian camels as they made for the canal side walk in the Westersingel district and taking them back to the circus tent.

Happily for the publicity-hungry circus, the affair made headlines in the Dutch newspapers, local radio and was captured on video and was posted on YouTube.

It’s not the only controversy faced by Scholl in the Netherlands. Less than a week later, the municipality of Uitgeest threatened the circus with a €10,000 fine for not having the correct permit to perform.

Despite the YouTube video, Scholl’s tour manager in the Netherlands, Ragina van Heybeek, denied the “Camel Caper” had ever happened. She said: “None of that was true, no camels escaped from our circus. It never happened”.

She also denied permit problems in Uitgeest. And she was angered by claims by Dutch animal rights activists about ill-treatment of animals at Circus Sydney.

She said “More lies and nonsense, we are tired of all this.”

Miss Heybeek claimed the circus had been inspected by the Dutch equivalent of the ISPCA and vets after complaints by activists.

“[They] came around and found that there was nothing wrong, everything was fine with the animals they said”.

But maybe for Scholl the old adage about all publicity being good publicity is not true. After the latest controversy, Liz Tyson of the Captive Animals’ Protection Society urged customers to boycott the circus.

Miss Tyson said: “Due to Circus Sydney’s apparently persistent failure to guarantee the safety of the animals under its care, or the safety of the general public – shown by the numerous escapes, the alleged hiring out of wild animals to partygoers – we have to question how this circus is allowed to continue to operate. Please do not visit circuses that use animals”

Last night, Scholl’s wife, Yvette, said they would be bringing their circus back to Ireland.

She said: “We like Ireland, we’ll be back next time with three small shows, which will go through the country”.

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