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Performing elephants are denied all that is natural to them and are forced to endure beatings, electric shock, food and water deprivation and intimidation.

How USDA is Failing America’s Captive Elephants

Article by Free All Captive Elephants 
Co-founder and Vice President – Dee Gaug
This article was produced by: Earth/Food/Life a project of the
Independent Media Institute – Published July 29, 2021


No matter what political views or affiliations people in the United States might have, most of them would agree that animal abuse is just plain wrong. Animals kept in captivity or forced to perform in circuses are subjected to some of the worst kinds of abuse. Among all these animals, however, elephants suffer the most in captivity as they are highly intelligent and social beings, according to experts, and have complex physical and social needs that cannot be met in any circus or zoo environment.

“Elephants who are kept in small enclosures are in increased danger of developing chronic foot disease and arthritis, both of which lead to frequent instances of death for captive elephants,” according to Dr. Toni Frohoff, a biologist and behavioural ethologist. “In fact, the most common reason for premature death of captive elephants is lack of space and standing on hard and/or otherwise inappropriate surfaces.”

Many people are unaware that circuses are still part of the American culture. The closing of the infamous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in May 2017 did not mark the end of cruelty perpetrated on elephants, who are forced into captivity and made to perform in circuses. Between 25 and 30 traveling circuses, which include caged wild animals, continue to travel and operate in the United States…

Click link above to read FULL ARTICLE.

NOSEY’S RESCUE: A USDA Failure, A Small Town Miracle!

Court Reports on Nosey’s Trial in Alabama:

Excerpt from court reporting:  

Dr. Lydia Young, full time associate veterinarian at the Elephant Sanctuary, was next to testify. She talked about her background, education, training and publications, revealing that she’s spent time in Thailand caring for a group of several thousand elephants.  She was stipulated as the state’s elephant expert. She was there when Nosey arrived at the sanctuary in the early morning hours of November 10 to observe her as she exited the transport trailer and went into their barn. She says the elephant was calm, alert and curious.

“She took her time gently exiting the trailer and was very interested in all of the new food available to her,” Young said.

Nosey had the most severe built up of dead skin of any elephant that I’ve ever observed,” she said, adding that the condition had spread all over her body.

A bacterial infection was also found in the cracks her skin, which can be life-threatening if not treated.

On the stand, she compared pictures of Nosey to other healthy elephants at the sanctuary, saying it shows how “abnormal” Nosey’s skin was.

She spoke to results from testing done on the skin on Nosey’s flank, which she says showed that the infection had been present for a very long time.

“My opinion is that the condition had been present for months to possibly years,” she added.

The longer an infection has been present, the harder it is to treat, she said.

A treatment plan was developed and implemented to help her skin repair. She may need lifelong care for her skin problems, Young said.

Urine samples also proved “lots and lots of bacteria” present in Nosey’s urine. She had a urinary tract infection, but she has improved, Young said

The defense said they felt ambushed by Young’s testimony.

X-rays of Nosey’s leg and foot show she has osteoarthritis, Dr. Young said.

She submitted them to a zoological radiologist for review. The radiologist provided a written report, also noting osteoarthritis findings.

Young says more tests need to be done, but she says there’s a presence of a “systemic, progressive musculoskeletal disease.”

“It’s believed to be an uncomfortable to painful disease as it progresses,” she added.

Nosey was also diagnosed with roundworm and was dewormed with medicine.

The defense pointed out that other elephants have died while living at the sanctuary. Dr. Young says the sanctuary exists to care for aging elephants. Since her employment, it has lost six elephants since 2014.


*** The defense attorney went on to mention that the USDA looked at Nosey four days before she was seized and before she was examined by the sanctuary staff, but the USDA did not confiscate.

The defense questioned Dr. Young’s various prognoses, saying nothing was immediately life threatening.

“If she is returned to the conditions she was previously held…in my opinion, those circumstances could be very detrimental to her health,” Dr. Young testified. “In those conditions, she will not improve.”

For four months a year, the defense says Nosey is in Florida on the Liebel family’s property.

Dr. Mark Wilson, Nosey’s longtime vet who has worked at many zoos throughout the country during his long career, took the stand in late afternoon. He treats Nosey four to five times a year and has been her vet for about a decade.

When he saw her in late April, early May, he did not notice any abnormalities in her motion and found her to be in good shape. He added that African elephants have more skin and more layers of skin on their bodies, as compared to Asian elephants.

He looked at the x-rays taken at the sanctuary of Nosey’s leg and found them to be inaccurate because of how she was positioned and due to the sanctuary’s “protected contact,” which is different from “hands-on contact.

Dr. Wilson says Liebel has always done everything he’s ever been asked to do by the USDA and Florida Game Commission when it comes to Nosey’s care. Her trailer has always met standards, he added.

According to Wilson, Nosey’s attitude is not the same after seeing her at the sanctuary and he believes she is traumatized and has separation anxiety after being removed from the care of the Liebel family.

“She not all mentally there… She’s not quite mentally herself,” he said.

He does not believe she needs medical attention every day. 

Prosecutors had Wilson go back through his records and there were notes that Nosey had a skin problem 20 years ago.

Next to testify was Franklin Murray, who has trained elephants since 1967 and knows the Liebel family. He has known Nosey for 25 years. He told the court that he has never seen them mistreat her or witnessed her in a medically endangered situation.

Hugo Liebel, Nosey’s owner, was the last on the stand. He said she had enough food and water and that a vet certified her as healthy in October before he could come into Alabama.

Liebel said activists have an agenda.

NOTE by Free All Captive Elephants: 

Highlighted text shows the complacency and complicit acts by the USDA, FWC and Nosey’s Vet, Dr. Mark Wilson.  Nosey had numerous physical ailments that were found upon her arrival at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. She was throughly examined by expert staff showing this egregious list of life threatenting ailments under the ‘care” of the Liebel Family Circus, yet she was permitted to continue to perform and give rides, only one month before her rescue to sanctuary.  This is proof of the situation bestowed upon many captive elephants all over the USA. The USDA has failed elephants by not enforcing the guidelines of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which laws are weak at best.  FACE is dedicated to helping ALL captive elephants suffering just as Nosey once did.  

Nosey has been living in sanctuary since her rescue on November 10th, 2017 in Moulton, Alabama.  She has been given permanent residency here in beautiful sanctuary through the Alabama court syetem.  She will NEVER return to life in a circus.  She is THRIVING and learning how to live as she was born to live in the wild as an elephant should.  She is meeting new elephant friends at the sanctuary and socializing with her own kind.  She will never be alone again without the company of other elephants.  


More Media Links:

  • Animal Defense Partnership – Natural Bridge Zoo – Asha the Elephant

Animal Defense Partnership calls for better elephant conditions at Natural Bridge Zoo

  • Natural Bridge Zoo – Asha:    An inspection from the United States Department of Agriculture field veterinarian this past winter cited that Asha was chained outdoors for “a great deal of time … on a concrete floor in a very damp barn,” the release said.  The zoo has been under scrutiny for lack of veterinary care for animals and dirty conditions for a number of years and was previously was subject to a USDA undercover investigation resulting in violation of dozens of federal regulations.

Natural Bridge Zoo responds to concerns about elephant

Ruling: Nosey to remain in county custody

INTERVIEW COEXIST: Coe Lewis 8/7/2020: