Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Stop Circus Suffering South America report

Posted: 26 March 2007. Updated: 16 May 2012


The use of animals in circuses in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Perú.

Husbandry: Confinement and Deprivation

Travelling from place to place, week after week, even with the best of intentions, circuses cannot provide animals with the facilities they need to remain healthy, with both their physical and psychological needs met. It is simply not possible in the circumstances to provide adequate facilities to care for animals, particularly animals such as primates, lions, tigers, bears, and elephants, in an environment that has to be packed up and moved every week. Scientific evidence shows that even domesticated species, such as ponies and llamas, suffer terribly because of the severe restrictions on space and constant movement that are part of the travelling circus environment..

This problem is made worse because circuses set up on whatever land is available in a town, or where they might attract the most visitors. No consideration is given to the needs of the animals.

Examples of inadequate husbandry in South American circuses:

Lions, tigers, ocelot and bears
For lions, tigers, and bears with circuses, home is usually a cage on the back of a truck. The average space for each animal is about two metres by two and a half metres, barely larger than than the animal itself, and that includes the space where they have to go to the toilet. There is little or nothing to amuse or stimulate these animals in the cages in which they spend almost their entire lives. This type of cage on the back of a lorry, which is only used by circuses, is known as a ‘beastwagon’.

Circo Barney y sus Amigos, Ecuador: A fifteen year old male lion, called Indiano, is forced to live in one of the worst cages ADI has ever encountered for such an animal. Indiano is chained alone inside the cage which is little larger than himself. Each day he suffers the mental torment of this severe restriction in a cramped, dirty, wire cage. Daily he is taken from the cage on the chain and put into an even smaller cage, one in which he cannot even stand up, until he is brought into the ring – he was observed being left in this tiny cage for up to four hours a day, with no access to water. Indiano was often fed what appeared to be rotten meat which the old lion refused to eat.


Circo Abuhadba, Bolivia: Four lions were kept in a beastwagon, three left this for just ten minutes each day for the show, a lion cub remained permanently in the beastwagon. During the show, the animals would have to jump through a ring of fire – something they would naturally avoid and therefore a trick that would require considerable force in training – and which would continue to frighten and torment the animals each time they performed. Two of the lionesses were pregnant, but continued to perform. Three brown bears were kept in three compartments of a beastwagon, each measuring approx 2.5 x 3m, no other exercise facilities were available for these animals.

Circo Africa de Fieras, Colombia: Five tigers (four adults and one cub), with only two used in the show, lived in a. beastwagon which measuring approx 2 x8m – clearly inadequate for one tiger let alone five. On September 27th, 2006 one of the tigers died – reportedly from mastitis.

Circo Barney, Ecuador: Three lionesses live in a beastwagon, approximately 5metres long by 2.5metres wide which is in such poor condition and so unstable that workers were seen holding onto a rope to keep the wagon from tipping over when the animals were fed. The wagon was not cleaned regularly enough forcing the lionesses to lie in their own excrement. To promote the show the lionesses would be driven around the town – it is acknowledged by scientists that transporting almost all species causes them considerable stress.

Circo Hermanos Gasca, Colombia: The white tigers live in a beastwagon in individual cages approx 2metres by three metres. The tigers are only fed chicken, leaving them vulnerable to vitamin deficiencies and sickness.

Circo Royal Dumbar, Ecuador: Two lion cubs are kept in a wagon which is 6m x 2.5m which divided into four sections, of which the cubs are allowed access to two sections at any time. The cubs rarely had access to water and had also had their claws removed – a cruel action that has severely disabled the animals for the rest of their lives and left them unable to perform parts of their natural behavioural repertoire.

Circo do Brasil, Ecuador: The lions are kept in a beastwagon inside the circus tent which is divided in half, with four males (all brothers) sharing one half and the lioness in the other half. During the performance the lions are forced to jump through rings of fire. Inside the tent, the animals live in semi darkness with no natural light. A tiger was kept in a section measuring approximately a third of another beastwagon. In a disgraceful example of forcing predator and prey species together, and the stress and fear that this must cause, when the circus is on the move, the other sections of the beastwagon are used to house goats, llamas and monkeys.

Circo Mexicano de Fieras, Ecuador: The lions live in a beastwagon which is split into two sections, with a male and female living in each sections. A lioness was pregnant during our observations but was still forced to perform.

Circus Las Galaxias, Peru: The three lions live in a beast wagon which is 6metres x 2.8metres the lions did not have any access to natural daylight.

Circo do Brasil, Peru: The lions lived in a beastwagon approx. 3.5metres x 2.5metres

Circo Russell, Peru: Three lionesses and a lion were all be ing kept in one section of a beastwagon approximately 2.5metres by 2.5metres.

Circo Zafari Kids, Peru: The ocelot lives in a wooden box, approx 1m x 50cm x 50cm

Circo Nikita / Circo Moscow, Peru and Circo Abuhadba in Bolivia: At Circo Nikita /

Circo Moscow the three brown bears lived in three separate compartments of the beastwagon, each of their living quarters measuring approx. 2.5metres x 3 metres. Their only exercise was the walk to and from the ring and their short performance there. The same bear act toured in the same conditions with Circo Abuhadba. There had been four bears, but one died in 2004.

Circo Nikita / Circo Moscow, Peru: The four lions were kept in a beastwagon measuring 6metres x 2metres which was divided into three sections.


All of the primate species are accepted as being especially intelligent, dextrous and need to socialise with their own kind. Most species share over 90% of their genes with humans. We know that these animals have an enormous capacity to suffer in captivity, just as we would ourselves.

Chimpanzees are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, sharing 98% of our genetic material, using tools, maintaining family bonds and social structures, and their very survival in the wild is threatened. It is widely acknowledged that chimpanzees have comparable awareness and intelligence to a small human child – the suffering and torment of these animals when kept in isolation in travelling circuses must be almost unbearable.

Circo Africa de Fieras, Colombia: The solitary chimpanzee, Karla, lives in a small cage on wheels measuring 2m x 1.5m x 1.2m high which has sawdust on the floor, but no form of enrichment. Karla was chained around the neck whilst in the cage and chained by the neck outside for approximately eight hours each day. She was also taken for occasional walks, being led by the neck, to publicise the circus. Karla was fed once a day, but has been regularly seen with inappropriate food such as sweets and also with access to plastic bags. Karla is believed to be over forty years old. Karla was bitten close to her genitals by one the circus dogs, her trainer cleaned the wound with alcohol. During a journey of 971km between sites where the circus would perform, Karla remained shut in her small cage for 40 hours. ADI initiated legal action against the circus to stop the physical abuse of the animals filmed by our Field Officers. Since this, Karla has been discarded by the circus and ADI are desperately trying to secure her freedom.

Circo Hermanos Gasca, Colombia: A chimpanzee called Panchito lives in isolation in a trailer approx. 2metres by 2.5metres. He is kept in this small prison cell almost permanently unless he is appearing in the show or occasionally being led around the circus by his trainer.

Circo Koenig, Chile: Before his rescue, Toto a adult chimpanzee was kept for most of the time in a packing crate. He was on occasion chained outside the circus. Fortunately he was seized from the circus and then relocated to Zambia by ADI – he now lives in 14 acres of natural bush with a family of other chimpanzees.

Circo Hermanos Gasca, Colombia: Three macaque monkeys live permanently in a cage approx 2 metres by 2.5metres. One animal leaves this once a day to appear in the show.

Circo Abuhadba, Bolivia: A mandrill was kept in a small wire mesh cage (a mini beastwagon) – approx 1.5 x 1.5m.

Bochincheros circos, Bolivia: Capuchin monkeys and spider monkeys were photographed in small crates. The two species of primates could also see each other which would cause stress and aggression.

Circo do Brasil, Ecuador: Two spider monkeys are forced to live in a section of a beastwagon with a tiger in another section, in addition to the restrictions on space and the very poor environment for the monkeys, the presence of the tiger is a cruelty in itself.

Circo de las Estrellas, Colombia: A solitary spider monkey is kept tethered on a chain to the side of the circus tent.

Circo Zafari Kids, Peru: Two spider monkeys live in a small cages approx 1m (l) x 50cm (h) x 50cm (w). A solitary capuchin monkey is tethered on a rope approx 1.5m long with no protection or place to hide from abuse by passing members of the public.

Circo Hnos King, Chile: Capuchin monkeys were kept during the day chained to a ladder, ADI footage shows one monkey becoming entangled in its chain.

Elephants are the largest animal that walks the earth and in the wild travel for up to 20 kilometres a day, eating, bathing, enjoying complex social interactions with their own kind, even mourning their dead. As these herds move, they transform the very landscape they live in. In the circus they spend most of their day chained by the legs barely able to shuffle a pace or two forwards or backwards. If lucky they get a small enclosure.

Circo Hermanos Gasca, Colombia: Two elephants are kept chained by the front right and back left leg, and so can only shuffle a pace or two backwards. They live inside the tent in an electric taped enclosure of approximately 8metres by 8 metres, so even if they were released from the chains the space would be cruelly restricted. During a journey of 971km between sites where the circus would perform, the elephants remained shut in their transporter for 39 hours.

Circo de Mexico, Colombia: A solitary elephant is tethered in a pen 13 metres by 10metres,.

Circo Barney, Ecuador: Two goats and a pony were tethered on 2m ropes in an area full of faeces and rubbish.

Circo Royal Dumbar, Ecuador: The 2 ponies, 2 horses & goat were tied up on bare ground surrounded by rubbish, next to the lion cubs which will have stressed the ponies, horses and goats, and agitated the lion cubs. Such inappropriate housing of prey and predator species next to each other is common in travelling circuses. The son of the circus owner told an ADI Field Officer that the ponies had recently been very sick due to being inside a truck for 15 days with little food or water because the circus had problems with a border crossing.

Circo Africa de Fieras, Colombia: The ponies and llamas were in 3metre by 4 metre pens inside an opensided tent. Although these pens were kept clean by workers, the animals were only watered twice a day and clearly there was no attempt to properly exercise them. The ponies were also used in a carrousel to provide rides for children. Here they walked slowly around the same tight circles for three hours a day. One horse had a leg fractured by another horse, an inevitable risk with such close confinement. The animal was taken to a vet and was killed, before later being fed to the carnivores.

Circo Hermanos Gasca, Colombia: Horses are kept in pens approx 3metres by 3metres. Ponies are kept in pens approx. 5metres by 4metres. The ponies only leave these pens to go in the carrousel for 4 hours a day.

Circo Barney y sus Amigos, Ecuador: Horses, donkey, goats, llama, dogs and sheep were tied up at the front of the circus. When food was dumped near to the animals some of them couldn’t reach it due to being tethered, so these animals would go without food. Goats and sheep were kept in a small pen measuring approx 3 x 3m. One goat was filmed with a large wound on the top of its head. A pony died tethered outside and remained remained where it had fallen for two days. The corpse could not be fed to the lion because it had already become so decomposed.

Domestic cats and dogs
Circo Africa de Fieras, Colombia: Domestic cats – they remain in cages approx 80 x 80cm. their only exercise is the ring – they remain in these cages when they are not performing.

Circo Africa de Fieras, Colombia: The dogs – most of the 37 dogs live in a yard approx 5x4m. within this pen some are tethered.

Circo de las Estrellas, Colombia: Twenty four dogs are all housed in a cage of approx 10metres by 10metres.

Read our report in Spanish

  • Click here to read the report in Spanish
  • Click here for the PDF of the Spanish report

© Animal Defenders International 2020