Written by Lisa Blanck as part of a series
originally published May 3, 2015
Updated article here!
Nosey’s story is once again heating up social media, with animal rights activists and humanitarians repeatedly calling for her immediate release from being forced to perform for the public on her arthritic, aging legs, at least once a day, at various events across the country. Action for Nosey Now (AFNN) is one of the main advocates for releasing Nosey, a 32-year-old female African elephant, from her enforced bondage, and have been acting on her behalf since September, 2014. On May 1, AFNN posted on theirFacebook page that her story is once again trending, and they also leaked an important announcement, “Friends of Nosey, Get ready for a new high-impact action to be announced on Monday, May 4!”
Back in August, 2014, a veterinarian observed Nosey, who is sometimes called ‘Tiny’, at the Great Lakes Medieval Faire and concluded that “she has an extremely reduced range of motion in the joints of her rear limbs and a painfully slow and deliberate walking gait, both indicative of serious arthritic and degenerative joint disease.”
The USDA has been contacted numerous times over a number of years to investigate Nosey’s exhibitor, Hugo Liebel, and to insist that she is not forced to perform. Owners of the fairs in which she has been slated to perform have also been contacted. Some have complied, and canceled her appearance; others have not.
As recently as April 24, 2015, friends of Nosey were bitterly disappointed when the decision to cancel her appearance at a Naples, Florida, event at the Lee Civic Center, organized by the Araba Shriners of Fort Myers, was reversed. After a week-long controversy, circus organizers decided to force Nosey to perform three shows on her aging, arthritic legs. Ken Wellborn, the circus chairman, stated,
“A vote was taken by all Shriners present and a vote was made in the affirmative to let it perform, I personally voted no because I don’t believe in waffling, but majority rules. I lost and the elephant’s gonna perform today.”
However, on April 24, according to NewsPress.com, Wellborn also stated that “I think that this elephant based upon everything we’ve seen is a healthy, happy elephant…But then again, I’m not an elephant expert.” According to reports, there was more than $70,000 garnered in presale tickets for the event.
WINK news reported that on the day of the event, Serge Coronas, the circus owner, claimed that allegations as to Nosey’s deteriorating condition “were all lies,” and showed WINK paperwork from her latest veterinary inspection, done in November 2014 by the University of Florida. It stated that “she appeared to be in good physical condition and no re-examination was warranted.” A spokesperson for AFNN believed there was a discrepancy in who actually performed the tests and had no comment at that time.
On that petition, AFNN gives a full description of what they are asking for, on behalf of Nosey.
“On Jan. 4, 2015 during a span of two hours, at USA Flea Market Bayonet Point, Florida. Hugo Liebel, USDA license 58-C-0288, allowed barrier free contact between the public and his elephant Nosey AKA Tiny numerous times. FWC regulations require that “A protective physical barrier must be present between the elephant and the public at all elephant ride sites. This barrier shall prevent bystanders from touching the animal.”
“Several people, including small children were permitted to go beyond the barrier, inside Nosey’s enclosure to pet and feed her. To permit this is not in compliance with Florida Captive Wildlife Regulations.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has specific rules and regulations regarding possession and exhibition of elephants. These include obtaining proper permits, and the exhibitor “must not have been convicted of any violation of captive wildlife regulations… involving unsafe housing of wildlife or that could potentially endanger the public; any violation involving the illegal commercialization of wildlife; any violation involving cruelty to animals; or any violation involving importation of wildlife within three (3) years of the date of the application.”
There are also specific qualifications regarding riding the elephants, transportation and caging requirements, and requirements regarding public contact with elephants:
‘Public contact/handling intervals for elephants shall be limited as to frequency, intensity and duration so that such handling shall not adversely affect the health, welfare or safety of the animals, nor expose the public to injury.’
In recent reports, after the USDA renewed the license of Nosey’s owner, the multitude of protests andpetitions, including those on social media, calls to the FDA and other government organizations, started to ramp up. Nosey is “owned” by Hugo Tom Liebel. Liebel’s Family Circus (also known as Liebeling Brothers Circus, The Great American Family Circus or Florida State Family Circus), is a traveling show with at least 200 citations over violations of the Animal Welfare Act for their poor treatment of Nosey and several primates.
In 2013, In Defense of Animals (IDA), an international animal welfare organization, slammed the USDA for choosing to settle with a person and an organization IDA considers to be “a chronic violator of federal animal welfare regulations.”
At that time, two years ago, Nosey was seen to be suffering from weight loss and a chronic skin condition, and was observed to be chained so tightly that she could not move or lie down. In addition she was handled in an unsafe manner, one that was dangerous to her and the public. Yet, instead of revoking Liebel’s license and handing down a maximum penalty of $330,000, the USDA settled before trial with the agreement that Liebel would pay a meager civil penalty of $7,500 and cease and desist from violating the AWA, which IDA says “he has blatantly ignored for decades.”
To further prove that Liebel is in violation of FWC regulations, in 2005, Liebel had to pay $2,885 to the USDA for charges resulting from failure to safely handle Nosey, resulting in injury to an employee. Liebel also paid a fine in Florida for allowing a monkey to escape and run loose.
IDA is continuing to ask the USDA to confiscate Nosey for repeated noncompliance with the veterinary care, handling, housing and husbandry requirements.
In March, 2015, after much public outcry, Kenneth Feld, the chairman and CEO of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in a press release that “After 145 years of featuring elephants in its circus acts,…it will retire its elephant herd by 2018.” Feld added that, “This decision was not easy, but it is in the best interest of our company, our elephants and our customers.”
Under the plan, 13 elephants currently traveling with the three Ringling Bros. circus units will be relocated to the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant for Conservation® in Polk City, Florida. There they will join the rest of the Ringling Bros. herd of more than 40 elephants.
AFNN alleges that Nosey has been trained and managed through the use of electric shock, bull hooks, sledgehammers, shovels and withholding food. They also claim that Nosey tested positive on a StatPak test for tuberculosis (TB) antibodies in January 2012. A positive test can be an early indicator of TB infection, which is highly transmissible between elephants and humans.
Nosey hasn’t been able to live with another elephant in 30 years. The average lifespan for an elephant is approximately 45 years. Elephants are highly social, intelligent animals. Though some people say that treatment of elephants in circuses has improved over the last decade, do you agree that it’s time for Nosey to gain her freedom?
All photos courtesy of many Nosey sites. (When Examiner folded, the original links disappeared, as did the individual courtesy notes.)