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

Animal Movements and Animal Trafficking

Our Field Officers identified several cases of animal trafficking or inappropriate animal movements by the circuses under observation.

On 9th October 2006 a giraffe ‘Shakira’, arrived at Circo Africa de Fieras in Bogota, Colombia. Circus personnel stated that this animal was purchased from a zoo in Miami, Florida, for US$50,000 and was en route for Gasca Brothers Circo to be trained. She arrived in Colombia on Saturday 7th October but was not permitted to leave the airport until Monday 9th due to offices at the airport being closed over the weekend. Whilst at the airport she was kept in a warehouse, her transporter box was 1.6m x 2.5m x 2.8m, and circus personnel made a small pen for her. It should be noted that the October 2006 IATA international animal transport regulations state :“Large giraffe are not recommended for air transport for animals that exceed an overall height of approx 1.50m (5ft)....” Shakira exceeded this height. The eight month old giraffe survived with the circus, living a pen of 7 metres diameter, for just six days. Shakira died at 3am on 15th October, the vet arrived at approx 9am to perform an autopsy, and said that she had a swelling of the stomach from gas accumulation due to an excess of concentrated food causing an obstruction of the digestive system. Shakira was cut up and taken to a pet crematorium and cremated.

The three female brown bears and their Russian trainer ‘Valdimir’, observed with Circo Abuhadba in Bolivia in December 2005, had previously been with a circus in Peru (see later). The owner of Circo Abuhadba also told ADI Field Officers that he planned to purchase two tigers for a Brazilian circus, which would have been picked up at the Brazilian border.


An ADI Field Officer visiting Circo Royal Dumbar in Ecuador in 2004, was informed that the circus had received two horses from Mexican circus Hermanos Fuentes Gasca. A tiger with Circo Brasil was reported to be from the same source.

Workers with Circo do Brasil in Ecuador told an ADI Field Officer that their two spider monkeys had been trapped in the wild in the forest in Peru. These animals must have suffered terribly during this process and continue to suffer severely having exchanged life in the forest for a barren cage on a lorry.

It was announced during the show that the two sealions with Circo de Las Estrellas came from “the Aquapark of Miami”.

In January 2003, Toto a chimpanzee with Circo Koenig in Chile became one of the few lucky animals to escape the circus industry. 27-year old Toto had been snatched from the wild in Africa as a baby. His terrible suffering when wrenched from his family, who were probably killed in the process, can barely be imagined. Aged just 2-3 years old, Toto is believed to have been purchased in the USA by Chile’s Circo Konig, along with three other baby chimpanzees. The other three apes died, leaving Toto alone with the circus for at least twenty years. Toto was chained by the neck, and his act involved dressing up in human clothes, smoking cigarettes and drinking tea. He lived in a packing crate with a cage across the front. His teeth had been pulled out and this had led to severe infections which would probably have killed him had he not been rescued – instead he was saved by a series of dental operations. Toto also had cigarette burns all over his body. ADI flew Toto to the world-renowned Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage in Zambia where ADI continue to fund his care. Today, Toto lives with a family of other chimpanzees in 14 acres of natural African bush.


Violence and Physical Abuse

ADI investigations in numerous countries have found that the use of violence in the training and control of animals is a regular occurrence and part of the circus culture. Often such activity takes place behind the scenes and it was no surprise that the most violence caught on film during this study was at establishments where Field Officers worked undercover. Nonetheless, it is disturbing to note, that so casual is the attitude to violence in many of the circuses that actions such as kicking or pelting animals with stones took place in plain sight, and animals were even beaten with metal bars during performances. Examples of violence caught on film by ADI Field Officers includes:

Circo Barney, Ecuador

  • Goats hit and prodded with a thick rod and whipped during their training sessions.
  • Dogs repeatedly beaten with a solid bar during a training session, yelps of pain from the submissive dogs were ignored.
  • A lion whipped and then struck and jabbed with a metal bar during a performance.

Circo Barney & Circo Barney y sus Amigos (two circuses joined), Ecuador

  • Bull whipped across the head and yanked by nose ring to control the animal.
  • Stones thrown at a bull to make it move.
  • Lion repeatedly struck with a metal pole, sticks and whips.
  • Donkey kicked and hit.
  • Goats whipped hard during training and also lifted by their horns into their transporter.
  • Horse being hit with a piece of wood to force it up a ramp and into a transporter .

Circus Africa de Fieras, Bogota, Colombia

  • Llama repeatedly whipped
  • Chimpanzee called Karla screaming whilst being punched in the face, hit, and even beaten with a chain by her trainer.
  • Ponies hit repeatedly during training sessions.

Circus Hermanos Gasca, Barranquilla, Colombia

  • Chimpanzee, called Panchito, hit and chased and hit by his trainer – the frightened animal screams throughout the attacks.
  • Stones thrown at a monkey by a worker.

Circo Las Galaxias, Peru

  • Lions were prodded, pulled by the tail, whipped, and also struck with weapons in order to force them to perform.

Circo Zafari Kids, Peru

  • A trainer pulled the capuchin monkey with great force and continued to treat the monkey very roughly. The same trainer also handled the ocelot with considerable force.

Circo Royal Dumbar, Chile

  • During the show lions were poked with rods to force them to obey commands. Lion cubs were hit about the head.

Read our report in Spanish

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

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