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IDA Files USDA Complaint
Ringling Bros. Circus Endangering Baby Elephants

IDA has long campaigned against the cruel treatment of baby elephants in circuses: from the traumatic separations of mothers and babies for brutal training to the endless travel, chaining and forced tricks that damage their still developing bodies. IDA is again fighting for these innocent baby elephant Barack, Ringling Bros. Circuscalves, this time by filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding the calf Barack, who has been forced to perform with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and who is now diagnosed for a second time with a virus that is deadly to elephants.

Barack was born on January 19, 2009 and was forced into travel and performance before he was a year old. Early video shows him in the circus ring surrounded by bullhook-wielding handlers. After only a month of such stressful performing, Barack tested positive for the elephant herpes virus in January of  2010, and was taken back to Ringling’s breeding center for treatment. Barack returned to the show in July - and 7 months later suffered a recurrence of the virus that strikes mainly young Asian elephants and has a 85% mortality rate.

Far too little is known about the virus and how babies contract it, but it is widely acknowledged that stress takes a toll on the immune system, and compromised immunity allows a virus like this to take root.

Elephants as young as Barack would never naturally be separated from their mothers. Female calves stay with their mothers for life, and males well into the adolescent years. They are not weaned until they are at least five. Forcing baby elephants into performance requires the forceful disruption of the maternal bond. Although Bonnie, Barack's mother, traveled with him, they were allowed only minimal contact, another source of great trauma and stress.

Ringling's greed and cynicism have broken Barack and put this vulnerable calf on the road,  leading to his contracting a dangerous, usually deadly, disease not once but twice. IDA is asking the USDA to intervene to protect Barack before it is too late for him, as well as other calves at Ringling and other circuses who are forced to perform.

what you can do:



  1. Can you shoot video and still photos of the calves with the Ringling Bros. Circus or Carson and Barnes Circus when they come to your city? If so, contact us at:
  2. Join IDA’s Elephant Task Force.
  3. Join IDA's Elephant Facebook page to check for circus schedules, notices of protests in your area, and the latest news on elephants.
  4. Visit for the latest news and information about elephants and IDA’s actions on their behalf.

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elephant baby Barack, Ringling Bros. circus

In Defense of Animals, located in San Rafael, Calif., is an international animal protection organization with more than 100,000 members and supporters dedicated to ending the abuse and exploitation of animals by protecting their rights and welfare. IDA's efforts include educational events, cruelty investigations, boycotts, grassroots activism, and hands-on rescue through our sanctuaries in Mississippi, Mumbai, India, and Cameroon, Africa.

In Defense of Animals is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. We welcome your feedback and appreciate your donations. Please join today! All donations to IDA are tax-deductible.

In Defense of Animals
3010 Kerner, San Rafael, CA 94901
Tel. (415) 448-0048 Fax (415) 454-1031

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