From birth baby elephants are quickly separated from their mothers. Circuses force animals to perform tricks that have nothing to do with how these magnificent creatures behave in the wild. These unnatural acts range from a tiger jumping through a flaming hoop to bears riding bicycles. Training animals to perform acts that are sometimes painful or that they do not understand requires whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods and other tools.
Elephants are trained through the use of an ankus—a wooden stick with a sharp, pointed hook at the end to discourage undesired behavior. An elephant handler will never be seen working with an elephant without an ankus in one hand or discreetly tucked under his arm. Although an elephant’s skin is thick, it is very sensitive—sensitive enough to feel a fly on her back. The ankus is embedded into elephants’ most sensitive areas, such as around the feet, behind the ears, under the chin, inside the mouth, and other locations around the face. Sometimes it is used to smash them across the face. Circuses claim to use “positive reinforcement” and to base their tricks on behaviors that animals carry out naturally. If this were true, however, the trainers would be carrying bags of food treats, not a metal weapon.