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Sunday, April 24, 2011

An elephant in the room
Posted Thursday, April 21, 2011
from: www.semissourian.com
I smell, and there's elephant snot on my shoe.
In what profession is that a normal Thursday observation? Journalism, apparently. The circus is in town and reporter Erin Hevern, photographer Laura Simon and I headed over to the Show Me Center for a behind-the-scenes chat with the veterinarian, elephant trainer and dog trainer on tour with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. (find showtimes here)

The three female Asian elephants greeted us with synchronized head sways and lots of curiosity.

Most of the movements and "tricks" performed in the show are natural movements an elephant does in the wild, like lying down or standing on its hind legs to reach foliage, according to Ramon Esqueda, the elephant trainer.

Ramon has been working with elephants for 36 years. His work has included zoos, movies and the circus. He's been with these three in the circus for four years.

I took a video camera with hopes that he could demonstrate a few orders and I could get the resulting dazzling elephant action on tape for you all. No chance.

"Only during the shows," the show's publicist Jillian Collett told me sternly.

But the girls were definitely putting on a show as you'll see in this first short clip of two of them hamming it up for Laura while she took photos.



Evidently, the way to an elephant's heart is through its foot. Elephants learn people and each other through smelling the feet, which explains the glop of nose goop on my shoe. One way elephants communicate is through stomping on the ground or by feeling vibrations. Jessica, the veterinarian said they look to the pachyderms' feet to watch for vitamin deficiencies or any injuries.
Here, Ramon tells more about the three Asian ladies.

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