2002-07-13 / Community

The Elephants Are Coming!

By Jim Manago
The Elephants Are Coming! By Jim Manago

By Jim Manago

The all-new, 2002 edition of Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus, "Surprise" is on its way, promising festive, fun-filled family entertainment provided by the most imaginative, talented cast of human and animal performers ever assembled under a Big Top.

The World’s Largest Circus, sponsored by the City of New York Parks & Recreation, features delights for animal lovers including Nubian Lions, Royal Bengal Tigers, Persian Felines, large and Lilliputian equines, captivating canines, and tons of mastodonic might.

The old-fashioned appeal of the three-ring circus provides audiences with plenty of awesome and daring acrobatics on the tightwire at the top of the tent, aerial ballerinas, and a stunning array of maneuvers, leaping and soaring in the upper reaches of the arena.

It’s always an evening full of surprises, which ends with Eli, the Human Cannonball, blasting off from the barrel of the World’s Largest Cannonball.

From Wednesday, July 17 thru Sunday, July 21, the circus will be at Forest Park’s Bandshell Parking Lot, Woodhaven Blvd., south of Myrtle Avenue. From Thursday, July 25 thru Sunday, July 28 you can catch the fun at Marine Park in Brooklyn, located at Avenue U, West of Flatbush Avenue.

The general public has the rare opportunity to meet Tina, a four and a half-ton pachyderm on the two opening days at 9:15 a.m. The Elephant Care staff will conduct a free, educational seminar to demonstrate how elephants learn and respond to verbal commands, through the positive reinforcement/shaping method of training. The staff will provide other facts about elephant feeding and care, and the need to preserve the elephants’ natural habitat.

Circus elephants can outlive their counterparts in zoos and in the wild, sometimes to 60 years or more. This is due to the plentiful supply of nutritious food, including supplements specially formulated, fresh water, veterinary care and a varied lifestyle affording behavioral enrichment.

All Cole Bros. elephants are adult, female, Asian Elephants. Each consumes 100 to 150 pounds of food and up to 100 gallons of water each day. They receive a variety of nutritious foods, including hay, sweet feed, cracked corn, apples, carrots, bread, and a specially formulated, vitamin enriched elephant supplement.

There’s daily bathing and grooming, including routine dental exams and daily teeth cleaning sessions with an elephant-sized "water pick." Good dental care makes their teeth – four large molars placed sideways along the jaw – last longer, which helps increase their longevity and quality of life.

Every month the elephants get pedicures that shape their toenails, smooth the footpads, and trim cuticles. The pedicures prevent problems, such as sweat gland blockages that could adversely affect their health.

"Tricks" performed by circus elephants repeat natural behaviors they display on their own. Non-domestic elephants in their natural environment stand on their hind legs, climb, push objects with their trunks and foreheads, lie down, sit up, and even stand on their heads. These are the same behaviors you see a circus elephant display. Working together with the trainer, the elephant learns to understand what behavior the trainer expects, and will repeat that behavior on command.

Communication is the key to training, which centers on positive reinforcement. Trainers praise elephants using vocal commands along with positive tactile reinforcement, stroking the elephant to demonstrate approval and increase the bond between elephant and trainer.

The "ankus" carried by the elephant trainer is a cueing device and symbol of leadership. The trainer uses it gently to convey tactile commands that follow and reinforce the verbal command issued by the trainer.

Elephants learn quickly and demonstrate physical responses that confirm their enjoyment of the mental stimulation and social interaction provided by training and performing. They benefit from the training provided in the circus environment. The close association between trainer and elephant, and the undeniable bonds of mutual affection and respect, facilitate the care of the animals.

Show times at Forest Park: Opening Day, Wednesday, July 17 at 5 and 8 p.m.; Thursday, July 18 at 10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.; Friday, July 19 at 5 and 8 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, July 20 and 21 at 1:30, 5, and 8 p.m.

Brooklyn’s Marine Park show times: Opening Day, Thursday, July 25 at 5 and 8 p.m.; Friday, July 26 at 10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, July 27 and July 28 at 1:30, 5, and 8 p.m.

Before the first performance, tickets can be purchased at www.tickets.com or by phone at 1-888-332-5600. After July 16 tickets will be sold only at the Circus Ticket Wagon on the Midway. If you could, buy tickets in advance so you can save $2 per ticket.

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