Elephants damage cars in escape from Missouri circus

It is unclear how the three animals eluded their handlers

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The Independent US

Three elephants made a bid for freedom when they escaped from their handlers at a circus in St. Louis, Missouri.

The mighty creatures damaged several vehicles in a nearby car park but caused no injuries before they were recaptured by staff.

The elephants escaped from the back entrance of the Family Arena at around 5.30pm on Saturday, between performances of the Moolah Shrine Circus, said spokesman Dennis Burkholder.

He said it was unclear how the animals managed to escape from a private holding area into the employee car park.

Witnesses said the elephants were spooked by loud noises when they ran off.

Karyn Tunnicliff, who was in a car outside of the arena with her daughter when the incident occurred, told KSDK: "We saw all these people running after them, and they were all screaming 'stop, stop,' and several of the circus people were trying to run alongside them.”

Trainers discovered the elephants missing and had them back in captivity after about 20 minutes, Burkholder said. The animals suffered no apparent injuries.

It is not the first time elephants have escaped from a circus. In 2012 a three-tonne Indian elephant bolted through Cork town centre, in Ireland, after fleeing Courtney's Circus.

And in 2008 an elephant was killed in a road collision in Mexico after it wandered out of the Circo Union circus.

Activist groups have long campaigned against using elephants and other animals in circuses amid well-documented abuse of the performing creatures.

The last elephant to feature in a circus in the UK was Anne, who travelled with Bobby Roberts Super Circus. In 2011 it emerged that she had been cruelly mistreated during her captivity.

Last year the Government confirmed hat a ban on the use of all wild animals in circuses in England will go ahead by the end of 2015.

Additional reporting by agencies