Our Nosey Story
From over 30 years in horrible captivity in a run-down family circus, to wonderful SANCTUARY, Nosey gained her freedom at the age of 36 thanks to the hard work of relentless advocates and organizations across the nation.
According to the Elephant Database, Nosey was captured at the age of two in 1984 from Zimbabwe (likely Hwange National Park). She was ripped away from her entire herd, many of whom were slaughtered in a government cull to control the elephant population. The conflict between humans and elephants has been an ever growing concern. Nosey, along with 62 other elephants were purchased by the eccentric multi-millionaire and founder of Nautilus exercise equipment, Arthur Jones. It was Jones’s intention to “save” these baby elephants and to have the largest herd of elephants at his Ocala, Florida estate known as Jumbolair. Jones used his enormous wealth and a Boeing 707 to air lift the elephants in the first operation of its kind in history. This was documented on ABC’s 20/20 in a segment called Jumbolair, The Flying Elephants. NOSEY WAS ONE OF THESE BABIES ON THIS JUMBO JET.
Watch both segments here: PART 1: Jumbolair Part 1 and PART 2: Jumbolair Part 2
By 1986 Jones had become overwhelmed with his herd. He had 98 elephants at one point. He contracted with David Meeks of the Meeks Company in South Carolina, to assist him in rehoming the elephants. (This was where Nosey was brutally BROKEN to learn how to become a circus elephant). Approximately 40 elephants were sold off to circuses and zoos while numerous others died. Nosey was sold to Meeks, who kept her until 1988 when he sold her to Hungarian immigrant and circus clown Hugo Liebel.
In 1986 Meeks advertised the sale of the elephants in a publication known as the Circus Report:
“Available for Sale Baby African Elephants Ranging from 3 to 5 years old. All our BABIES are “broke to leg” chain and lead. Any SPECIAL TRAINING is available on request…GET YOUR ELEPHANTS NOW…while they are AVAILABLE, AFFORDABLE and SMALL.
NOTE: Broke to leg chain and SPECIAL TRAINING description: Elephants that are captured and held in captivity that go to circuses go through a “breaking”, ” phajaan”, or “crush” in order to OBEY HUMAN COMMANDS for the rest of their lives. Nosey and all circus elephants that are wild caught must be trained to learn tricks to perform and give humans rides. This process is brutal, horrific and done during an elephant’s infancy or very young life. Baby elephants are scared to death, have been through horrors with being captured from their mothers and herds, and taken violently against their will. Trainers tie up, severely beat repeatedly, over and over and over, until an elephant essentially “gives in”, their spirits BROKEN to obey their every command. Elephants are beaten into submission and continually beaten throughout their entire lives wihle in captivity to “keep them in line”. Elephants are highly intelligent and much like the better traits in humans. They need others of their own kind to mingle with, to associate with, to love and physically and emotionally thrive from. This is taken away in order to control them into entertaining for the benefit of humans. These are the FACTS and documented.
MOULTON, AL – The Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that the owners of Nosey the elephant, Hugo Liebel and his wife Franciszka, were arrested Saturday morning, December 16th, 2017, on animal cruelty charges. They were both released on a $1,000 bond.
Read FACE Vice President, Dee Gaug’s statement while at the trial in Alabama.
Liebel, now a resident of Davenport, FL went on to start his own low budget circus with his wife Franciszka and eventually their five children along with various transient workers. Nosey was trained to do tricks and give rides through the use of brutal training methods including a bull hook (a device resembling a fireplace poker), sledgehammers, shovels, and electric shock. Testimony from a former employee of Hugo Liebel gave this account of a “session” where Nosey was brutally beaten to teach her a lesson: Former employee testimony document.
For more than 30 years, Nosey suffered greatly at the hands of the Liebel family. She was often chained for hours on end, not given adequate food, water, veterinary care and deprived of the companionship of other elephants all the while forced to perform by her greedy owners in the name of human “entertainment”.
Life on the road and the lack of veterinary care took its toll on Nosey. She developed arthritis, foot, and skin problems as well as a host of other health ailments that were all brought to light at Nosey’s custody trial, December 2017, in Lawrence County, AL as reported by Dr. Lydia Young. Throughout the years over 200,000 public complaints were made to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) about Nosey. Liebel was also cited more than 200 times by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and for more than 30 direct violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
Below is a partial list of these violations, many of which were repeated on numerous occasions:
- failure to allow access to records and property
- failure to provide enclosure of sufficient strength to contain elephants
- feeding moldy hay
- withholding food from the elephant for training purposes
- sharp pieces of metal exposed in the elephant trailer
- noticeable hyperkeratosis on the ears
- failure to provide an elephant with shelter from the sunlight
- inadequate food supplies
- giving elephant rides to the public despite the fact that the circus’ state permit had expired
- open bags of feed used for the elephant on the floor of the trailer adjacent to a bag of feed that had been chewed open by vermin
- tethering Nosey in such a manner than she could move only a few feet from side to side
- chaining Nosey by two feet so tightly that she could not lie down on her side or make any forward or backward movement
- failure to handle elephants in a manner that would protect the public and the animals
- keeping an elephant in a transport trailer in disrepair without adequate ventilation
- no written records of veterinary examination and evaluation of the elephants’ skin
- an elephant suffering from an untreated skin condition
- failure to have their elephant handlers tested for tuberculosis
- sharp pieces of glass used during an act in the show ring that could have easily injured the elephants’ feet
- not providing the minimum space to an elephant housed in a trailer
- transporting an elephant and a steer in the same trailer at risk to the steer’s sharp horns
- failure to provide an adequate barrier between the animals and the public
- splintered wood on the inside of the door of the elephant transport trailer
- repetitive failure to give veterinary care to an elephant who had a buildup of oil, dirt, and dead skin clogging the skin pores on [the animal’s] body
- failure to supply permanent housing for Nosey when not on the road
- stereotypic behavior of Nosey
- failure to maintain the elephant barn which had protruding nails and metal rods
- leaving the elephant unattended or under the control of a child during public exhibition
- improper foot care leading to an overgrown toenail, and weight loss in Nosey.
In 2011, 33 formal charges were brought against Liebel by the USDA in a formal complaint. The USDA could have taken action to terminate Liebel’s exhibitor’s license and seize Nosey, however instead they entered into a settlement agreement with Liebel in 2013. Liebel was assessed a civil penalty of $7,500 and ordered to stop violating the AWA. As is often the case in these circumstances, these fines amounted to nothing more than the cost of doing business and there is no evidence that they have ever been paid. However, Liebel continued to consistently violate the AWA until 2017 when Nosey was finally seized in rural Alabama by local authorities.
Through the use of social media and other sources, several founders of FACE began tracking Nosey’s whereabouts in 2014. By placing a post on our FB page, we would ask “Have you seen Nosey? Please be on the lookout at any roadside set up for her and let us know”. Upon finding out where Nosey was scheduled to be, or finding out that she was already being exhibited, we would spring into action immediately calling venues and local officials and informing them of the history of abuse and neglect of Nosey along with the dangers to the public. Often peaceful protests were organized at the venues where advocates would document the violations with photos and video that was in turn given to both state and local authorities.
Our actions severely hampered Liebel’s business. Venues were cancelled and eventually, Liebel stopped advertising his upcoming shows in local newspapers and on social media. Our efforts were working and Liebel was feeling the pressure.
He often referred to Nosey by other names such as Tiny or Peanut and also changed the name of his circus several times to throw advocates off of the trail. It didn’t work.
FACE administrators were successful in getting Liebel’s liability insurance cancelled as well as getting the FWC to deny renewal of his state exhibitor’s permit in June 2017. (State of Florida letter of Denial to Hugo Liebel). This spelled the beginning of the end for Liebel. This meant he could no longer return to Davenport, Florida with Nosey. Liebel was feeling the pressure and began exhibiting Nosey wherever he could, abandoning the requisite itinerary. Locating Nosey was like finding a needle in a haystack. But find her we did!
After nearly 3 decades of documented violations of the AWA, by Nosey’s “owner”, and due largely in part to the efforts of FACE administrators, on November 10th, 2017, the Miracle in Moulton was set into motion after a local Alabama animal control officer, Kimberly Carpenter, was called by a concerned citizen, Shay Culbertson, who found Nosey chained by both front and hind legs in a rural town in Alabama. Ms. Carpenter, who was unfamiliar with elephants, did what MANY animal control officers before her did not have the courage to do, she ACTED! She took one look at Nosey and knew something was very wrong. She contacted now FACE President, Robin Vitulle, for help on what to do next. “I’ll never forget that call at 11am on a Wednesday morning on November 8th, 2017. Ms. Carpenter says, “We are going in to get the elephant.” And there is began….Nosey’s rescue.
Ultimately, Kim contacted the District Attorney’s Office who contacted now FACE Vice President Dee Gaug, who explained that Liebel was a flight risk. Assistant District Attorney, Callie Waldrep eventually got a writ of seizure signed by District Court Judge, Angela Terry.
The seizure order was served on Franciszka Liebel, who then placed Nosey in her cramped trailer where she would remain for almost 30 hours straight. As if to make one last statement, Mrs. Liebel made Nosey suffer until the very last moment in her “care”. She didn’t have to lock Nosey up, but she did. After a night of waiting for appropriate transportation to arrive, and while the local sheriff’s office kept watch to ensure Liebel did not flee the jurisdiction, Nosey was successfully transported to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.
Liebel did not go down without a fight. It took a 10-hour trial with multiple witnesses including several elephant experts and several appeals to ensure that custody of Nosey would NEVER be returned to Liebel. Finally, almost two years to the day, on November, 4, 2019, Circuit Court Judge, Mark Craig, dismissed Liebel’s appeal.
Today Nosey continues to live at the Sanctuary where she is enjoying making her own choices to eat and drink when she wants to, wallow in the mud when she wants to, to knock down trees when she wants to, and everything that brings her happiness on her own terms. She has now met Tarra the Asian Elephant who resides at the sanctuary. Nosey has not touched and socialized with her own kind for most of her life. Havng this opportunity is vital for elephants as they thrive and flourish while connecting with other elephants. In the wild, Nosey would have remained with her mother her entire life. She just now gets to meet another elephant after more than three decades. She is thriving under the care of the sanctuary’s extraordinary caregivers and veterinary care staff. We are so overjoyed at Nosey’s freedom after all her years suffering in captivity.
* See below: Alabama court order and announcement from the sanctuary *
Alabama – Nosey’s Court Case – Judge Craig upheld the lower court’s order
“The custody of the elephant, more specifically described as “Nosey” which was seized by the animal control officer of Lawrence County, Alabama on November 8, 2017 shall be vested in said animal control officer, Kimberly Carpenter, in her official capacity. The animal control officer shall make decisions as to the continuing placement and treatment for the elephant.”
Nosey’s court case is settled! 11/4/2019
***UPDATE TO NOSEY’S COURT CASE!
On November 4th, 2019 Judge Mark Craig gave his FINAL ORDER:
ORDER OF DISMISSAL OF APPEAL
AND REINTSTATEMENT OF LOWER COURT JUDGMENT
THE PARTIES appeared through counsel for consideration
of pending motions, including the Plaintiff’s Motion for
Dismissal to Sanction Defendants’ Gross Misconduct and
Defiance of Court Orders (doc. 120). The court heard
arguments of the parties concerning these motions. Upon
consideration of all matters of proper record, of the
written arguments and briefs of the parties, of the oral
arguments made during the hearing, of the applicable law, of
the court’s ability or inability to afford practical relief
and of every other matter related to the issues raised in
the motions before the court, the court announced its
rulings in open court. In accord with the announced rulings,
ORDERED that this appeal for trial de novo is DISMISSED
It is further ORDERED that the January 22, 2018, judgment of the
District Court of Lawrence County, Alabama, the Honorable
Angela D. Terry presiding, is REINSTATED. It is further
ORDERED that, unless granted directly or necessarily by
this instant order, all other motions and requests for
relief are DENIED. It is further
ORDERED that the Clerk of this court shall publish this
order as a final judgment in accord with Ala.R.Civ.P. 5(b)
DONE this 4th day of November, 2019.
/s/ MARK B CRAIG
November 10, 2017 from The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee: Nosey’s Arrival
Hohenwald, Tenn. — “African elephant Nosey arrived safely at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee late Thursday night after she was confiscated in Alabama by Lawrence County animal control officers on Wednesday, November 8, 2017. The Sanctuary will be a temporary refuge for Nosey until the court makes a final ruling. (At this time, the case had not been settled) The Sanctuary’s Veterinary and Husbandry teams greeted Nosey upon her arrival with fresh-cut produce, bamboo, and banana leaves. Staff monitored her throughout the night and reported that Nosey showed calm interest in her new surroundings. Over the next weeks, Nosey will be kept separate from the other elephants as her health and individual needs are evaluated. We applaud all those who have worked so tirelessly on Nosey’s behalf. The Sanctuary Staff is committed to providing the highest standard of care for Nosey during her time at The Elephant Sanctuary.”
Enjoy this synopsis of how Nosey now spends her days in wonderful SANCTUARY… she spends her time doing what she wants, when SHE wants.
At The Sanctuary, Nosey is spending spring grazing on the grassy hilltop in her habitat, lying down to nap in the sun, creating new wallows, and splashing around in the mud. The Sanctuary’s Facilities and Care are constantly working to create new opportunities for Nosey to engage with the natural habitat—mapping out and clearing trails, digging wallows, and providing ample enrichment. We celebrate Nosey’s daily choices to engage with her surroundings.
Nosey also continues to progress daily in Protected Contact Management and is eager to participate in training with Caregivers—presenting all four feet and lifting her trunk for dental inspection. On one particularly warm day last week, Nosey was offered a firehose bath by Caregivers. She leaned in to the water, lifting her trunk and rubbing it on her head and face. Her excitement appeared to grow as she vocalized several times and continuously turned to be hosed on all sides. She presented all four feet to be hosed and laid down during the bath to roll in the mud. Afterward, Nosey rubbed her body on the street brush in the habitat, and then walked to the wood line where a pile of treats awaited her.
There are still dozens of elephants in North America in circuses and roadside zoos that need our help.
Please support the work of Free All Captive Elephants: DONATE TO FACE. 100% of your donation will go directly towards our efforts. Please see our current campaigns to get captive elephants to sanctuaries accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, (GFAS) and towards improving the lives of elephants not likely to be released.