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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Circus elephant captured after escape
Viola, an elephant performing with the Cole Brothers Circus in Lynchburg, is led back to the circus grounds at Presbyterian Homes after she briefly escaped from handlers Tuesday. No one was injured.
Jason Snyder/The News & Advance
Published: April 27, 2010
Disney’s classic movie “Dumbo” drove home the idea that elephants are afraid of mice. If Viola, a female elephant performing with Cole Brothers Circus, speaks for the majority, they’re also afraid of rabbits.
The elephant, who had already performed at Presbyterian Homes and Family Services on Tuesday evening, briefly broke away from her handlers and ended up a few hundred feet from her designated area after a wild rabbit jumped toward her, officials with the circus said.
“She got disoriented and didn’t know which way to go,” said Mark Morrison, vice president of development for Presbyterian Homes.
The elephant ran directly past a line of spectators waiting to buy tickets, sending some running toward the parking lot. Handlers and circus workers chased after the elephant.
Morrison said she broke from the group at about 6:30 p.m., and handlers had her back with the other two elephants about 30 minutes later.
He said few people were in the area at the time, as the show was still going on inside the tent.
No circus goers were in danger at any point during the incident, which lasted about 30 minutes, circus officials said.
City Councilman Michael Gillette, ward representative for this area, said he understood the incident was short-lived and presented no threat to the community.
He said he did not regret voting for the permit that allowed the circus to come to Presbyterian Homes. Some Peakland neighbors had asked the city not to grant the circus a permit to perform in that area.
“We certainly hoped this wouldn’t happen and we hope it won’t happen again, but I’m happy that at no time was anyone in any danger,“ Gillette said.
Elvin Bale, vice president of operations for the circus, said Viola had probably played her last act of the night.
“I think they’re probably going to give her the night off, because she looked a little stiff to me,” he said.
Officials said Viola appeared to have mildly injured herself when she stepped in a hole while loping down an embankment.
Handlers were initially concerned that the elephant might be injured, but eventually determined she was well enough to walk back to her tent under her own power, Bale said.
This was the first time Presbyterian Homes had hosted the circus.
“We’re just glad she’s fine and we’re glad nobody was hurt,” he said.
Alicia Petska and Jason Snyder contributed



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