Written by Lisa Blanck
originally published May 12, 2015
You may be familiar with the story of Nosey the elephant. Many groups have been fighting on behalf of this 32-year-old African elephant for years, trying to convince the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) that she should be allowed to retire from her endless days of performing at events all over the country. This week you can start making a difference in the life of Nosey by becoming part of the Tweetstorm, and pledging to attend a march on the USDA that will be held in June.
On May 10, Action for Nosey Now (AFNN) announced that they had passed 2,000 Twitter followers, and were attempting to convince City Commissioners in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, to ban Nosey from being forced to participate in their May Day Celebration. Although AFNN notes that Commissioner Cecilia Jones was seriously considering the ban, in the end she backed down, and Nosey was transported five hours to the event from her home in Davenport, Florida, gave rides in the heat all day, and then faced a five hour trip back home. That’s about 18 hours she was forced to stand on her arthritic legs.
AFNN is asking people to contact the USDA on behalf of Nosey, to voice your concern about her treatment. They believe that the evaluation done by the veterinarian from the University of Florida in November, 2014, needs to be repeated, as UF promised. You can find information forms in both English here and in Spanish here. Per AFNN, the names and email addresses who should receive the emails are email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com. AFNN has also provided a link to an on-line form, which you can access here.
Another way to help is coming up in just three days. OnMay 15, a Tweetstorm is going to be launched upon the groups that can help Nosey break free from her chains. The action is overseen by the groupSave Nosey Now, We Are Her Voice!, (SNN), who have been working on Nosey’s behalf for years as well. They have also organized a peaceful protest that will be held on Friday, June 26, from 11:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. at 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C., the doorstep of the USDA offices. SNN believes that it’s not enough to call; in order to make your desires known, you have to show up.
To prepare people for the event, and to help unify their cause, they have designed a number of tee-shirts to wear at the event, to express your support of Nosey. If you would like to purchase one, hereis the link. If you plan to attend the march, please contact SNN here to let them know you will be coming. If you cannot attend, please wear your shirt and send a photo to SNN’s Facebook page. That way those who have Nosey’s fate in their hands will understand that Nosey’s supporters will not give up, will not give in, and are not going away.
If you do attend the Nosey protest, there is another related protest in the same area, against UniverSoul circus which is performing there from 6/24-7/19. Nosey is not the only elephant who will need help that weekend in D.C. For information on that protest, contact Carrie LeBlanc on Facebookhere!
CompassionWorks International (CWI) is also working on Nosey’s behalf. On their webpage, they have this heartbreaking report, based on undercover footage recorded at an event this year in Gun Barrel City, Texas, 80 miles outside Dallas.
“In the cold wind and rain, Nosey exhibited signs of psychological distress, endured the power washing of her delicate skin, and was forced to give rides by her bullhook-wielding captor. Much of the time, she simply sat alone, without any company or companion.
As a result of CWI’s investigation, a complaint has been filed with the USDA for several violations of the AWA, including instances of improper handling and danger to the public safety. CWI is also the benefactor of other animal-oriented protests, printing and distributing over 650 posters (95% of which completely free of charge) to circus protests around the country!
If you would like to read the original article on Nosey, you can find it on Animal Writes. The groups believe that her arthritis is causing her great pain. She is suffering from a skin condition and weight loss. They are in agreement that forcing her to give endless rides to children and adults, having performers swing from her tusks, and allowing people to touch her without proper supervision is not in compliance with FWC regulations.
The medical concerns the pro-Nosey groups are that despite acknowledging symptoms consistent with degenerative arthritis, the clinic did not take radiographs (x-rays) that would have offered conclusive information on Nosey’s condition.
A number of groups have collected video footage spanning many months that documents symptoms consistent with degenerative arthritis and, her symptoms do appear to be worsening. They believe it is up to the USDA to follow through with the orders given by the veterinarians they themselves chose, and the only way to get conclusive information regarding Nosey’s lameness is through a radiographic study. They would also like a full health history and blood work done to determine the possible presence of pain-killers and/or performance enhancing medications in Nosey’s system. If these substances are present, Nosey should not be performing.
There are petition sites you can sign on behalf of Nosey. This one is from Care2. Here is another, directed towards CNN and the airing of a special called “Apology To Elephants”, in which Nosey is one of the featured pachyderms.
PETA has also been attempting to free Nosey from her enforced bondage for quite some time. They have another petition her supporters urge you to sign, which can be found here. As of today, almost 190,000 people have pledged to help Nosey by signing this petition. According to PETA, Veterinarian Philip K. Ensley, D.V.M., Dipl. ACZM concluded that Nosey, “undoubtedly suffers from advanced arthritis and degenerative joint disease, resulting in ongoing pain, and most likely permanently impaired limb function.” Dr. Ensley, practicing veterinary medicine for 44 years, spent over 30 of them in zoo practice.
Liebel has received over 200 citations from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal (APHIS) for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. PETA was very upset, as were all the Nosey supporters, that in March, 2013, instead of facing a hearing, Liebel, settled with the USDA regarding 33 violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)—several of which sprang from charges that followed PETA complaints to the agency. PETA provided a fact sheet on Nosey, which you can access here.
PETA reports in a statement from Brittany Peet, PETA’s Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement:
PETA has been working to secure Nosey’s retirement to an accredited sanctuary since 2004, when a whistleblower reported seeing Nosey as she was beaten with a bullhook and shocked with an electric prod.
In Defense of Animals (IDA) as mentioned in the previous article, was also working on behalf of Nosey in the past. They, and PETA have been doing this, according to a source, for more than a decade. However, the source also explained that IDA has since eliminated their campaign on behalf of circus elephants.
ARFF, the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, is yet another group fighting to free Nosey. They state that the 2013 violations were not the first that the Liebling Brothers Circus faced. In October 2005, the Circus was assessed a penalty of $2,885 for multiple violations of the AWA, including “failure to establish and maintain programs of veterinary care, housing monkeys in a truck with insufficient light and poor sanitation, and in cages that did not allow for normal postural movements.” ARFF has anumber of issues and campaigns that might interest you, along with their fight to free Nosey.
Here are some additional sites concerned with freeing Nosey: Elephant Nosey Needs You which provides lots of information on what is going on, where Nosey will be, how you can help her case.Nosey the Elephant Needs Our Help, who provides contacts and USDA updates for members of the public who wish to petition authorities with letter-writing campaigns on behalf of Nosey.
People familiar with Nosey’s treatment ask this question:
“If this animal has been owned by one person for so long, why does this person still need to use a bullhook or a stun gun?”
At one point, Nosey had a benefactor who attempted to purchase her from the Liebel family, and would have allowed her to live out her life in freedom. His name was Sam Simon. He ran the animal rescue oriented Sam Simon foundation, based in California. He had over 59,000 followers on Twitter, and said of himself, I’m just a kid from Beverly Hills that got lucky.”
One of his last posts on his Twitter page read, “I tried to help nosey. I couldn’t do it. I’ll try again.” It is reported that no money amount was mentioned by Sam. However, those in contact with the situation stated that they “do remember seeing a post on the Leibel’s page…’some man offered (me) a half a million dollars’.” Unfortunately, his offer was declined by the Liebels, and Mr. Simon passed away in March.
As recently as May 6, Captain Kara Hooker, Division of Law Enforcement from the FWC, returned an inquiry made to them regarding concern for Nosey’s health. They said “the FWC has received numerous complaints.. that we look into Mr. Liebel’s captive wildlife permit. (After) several unannounced inspections, which occurred on April 14, 2014, January 11, 2015 and February 6, 2015, they concluded no violations were noted during the inspections.” Further, they state that Dr. Mark Wilson, DVM, evaluated Nosey on January 28, 2015. This was to follow up on the evaluation by UF in November, 2014.
“In both instances, these evaluations revealed no clinical evidence of lameness or abnormalities that would interfere with normal function. Nosey was deemed to be in good physical condition, and no husbandry changes, treatment or further diagnostics were recommended. Based on these findings, no action regarding Mr. Liebel’s license is warranted at this time.”
Based on the November, 2014, UF medical report, there were no non-steroidal anti-inflammatory narcotic substances found in Nosey’s blood serum. Although the report goes on to say that she “exhibited mild gait asymmetries characterized by occasional shorter stride of her right hind limb when turning more tightly to the right, a tendency to place her right hind limb more laterally away from her body, and when getting up from sternal recumbency, she pushed off more with her left hind and was more weight bearing on her left hind.”
So, how is it possible that different veterinarians with comparable backgrounds, view the same elephant in quite different circumstances regarding her health?
If all the efforts on behalf of Nosey be successful, and should Nosey finally gain her freedom, she will be welcomed with open arms at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. According to correspondence received from them, PETA has committed to supporting the cost for her care, and TES will also partake in fundraising opportunities. The Sanctuary was opened in 1995, and provides a natural habitat and refuge to African and Asian elephants. It is not open to the public, because it is a sanctuary.
However, there is no guarantee that Nosey would be able to spend the rest of her days at TES. In the past, some elephants that gained their release from the confines of a circus ended up at zoos around the country. That was not the intention of the groups fighting for them, but it is certainly preferable to being forced to perform while being poked in your softest places with a bullhook.
To make her story even more unbearable, you must understand that elephants are pack animals. Like people, they enjoy the company of other elephants, need that companionship. Nosey has been deprived of any sort of companionship from other elephants since she was captured in Zimbabwe with 61 other baby elephants, and soon after, sold to the Liebel family.
The only time she’s seen another elephant is when the family of her owner, Hugo Liebel, brought a large blow-up plastic elephant to Nosey to see what her reaction would be. Take a look at the photographs on her Facebook page, because due to ownership laws, the photographs cannot be shared here. You could see by the sadness in her eyes that she recognized the shape of the elephant, which, you can only assume, made her awareness of her solitary life all the more heartbreaking.
Help free Nosey. She does need you now.
All photos below courtesy of various sites dedicated to helping Nosey.