February 4th, 2009
03:02 PM ET

The greatest show on Earth

Editor’s Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session.”

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/04/elephant-performer-getty.jpg caption="A performer rides an elephant during a live performance of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus."]

Jami Floyd
AC360° contributor and In Session anchor

I met my first elephant at the Central Park Zoo, when I was a very little girl and I was smitten. Over the years, I read all about them and went to the circus whenever it came to town. So imagine the thrill when, as an adult, I had the good fortune to see elephants in the wild.

I have seen them feed. I’ve seen their burial rituals. I have even been charged by a mother elephant protecting her calf.

Through it all, here is what I have learned: Elephants are a lot like people. They have emotions of a sort. They remember things like we do. And they are social animals; they like the company of other elephants and of people too. But when all is said and done, they are not people. They are still elephants.

So we need to ask ourselves some hard questions about our relationship with them.

Of course, no animal should be abused. But as we put Ringling Bros. on trial, let’s keep in mind that most kids in this country will never see an elephant in the wild. The only real elephants they will ever see will be in the zoo or at a parade — or at the circus. After all, that’s where my love of these graceful creatures was born.

If we want our children to learn to love them too, we will need to make our peace with animals in captivity and with those who choose to work with them there.

Filed under: Jami Floyd • Justice Department
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Mark The Carpenter

    Unfortunatley for the elephant, their future lies in the hands of humans that can hardly take care of themselves.

    February 5, 2009 at 11:08 am |
  2. kamran ali

    jumbo!!! give me a hand, cant hold her anymore

    February 5, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  3. Anna, HK

    Elephants are a great animal – period.

    February 5, 2009 at 10:03 am |
  4. TBadly

    With global warming escalating it's advisable to ride on mother nature own JUMBO jet!

    February 5, 2009 at 9:56 am |
  5. Nattada, Houston TX

    In Thailand, more often you will see elephants roam around the city like Bangkok with their owners. The sad thing is they come to the city because they could not survive in the wild any more, according to the owner.

    They would walk on foot from the north of Thailand, for so may miles, to big city with a roller of ice and sugar cane cut into pieces or sugar cane juice in the bottles. People would pay for a piece of sugar cane and feed it to the elephant right on street.

    Some people pay the owner to walk through under the elephant belly. They believe if you do that, it will bring you good luck. (I think if you can do that without getting kicked or stumped, that "is" already your luck.)

    Unfortunately, some elephants do not have that good luck for themselves. A lot of elephant in the city got hit by city vehicles. Some were in bad case of mulnutritional. A lot of elephant I saw was still a baby. With city tempurature, no real food, and super hot concrete surface they walk on, my heart sank everytime I saw them. I rather love to see them in a wild than up close in those kind of conditions.

    February 5, 2009 at 2:33 am |
  6. rich

    If you want the elephants to be around in the future we need to crack down on China which kills every living animal in it's country then goes around the world to decimate elephants for ivory sharks for soup and you know the list goes on and on!! The chinese don't care about the rest of the world it's all about them!!


    February 4, 2009 at 11:43 pm |
  7. Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    Jami: I have mixed feelings on this. I will never forget as a little girl when I visited a local zoo and saw an elephant with his foot chained to a cement block as though he was a criminal being locked up. I'd be lying if I said seeing an elephant for the first time like that was a good experience for me. I appreciate zoos, especially those that endorse conservation and education but what does a circus really do but entertain people. Do Asian elephants really deserve to be trained? Should be an interesting trial. Please keep us updated with key outcomes and/or the ruling. Thanks.

    February 4, 2009 at 11:38 pm |
  8. Sam, Ewa Beach, HI

    Good blog! i agree.

    February 4, 2009 at 8:48 pm |
  9. EJ (USA)

    Elephants are dangerous.

    February 4, 2009 at 6:58 pm |
  10. Annie Kate


    I've only seen elephants up close and personal as they say at the zoo and at the circus. I preferred the zoo because then I could see them behaving just as elephants – no tricks. I read a study not long ago that female elephants remember where water holes are especially in a drought. So in the packs of elephants with females who had already survived one drought those packs knew where to go for water and lost less young to the drought than the packs who didn't have females who had weathered a drought before. I thought it was a fascinating way to test the old "elephants remember" saying.

    February 4, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  11. Frances

    Im beginning to think the stand the Republicians are making are not thestimulus package, but President Obama himself. He tried to reach across the isle but no one seems to want to come half way.As an American I would think that they the republicians can put aside thier differences and think about us the American people. When GM came for help look how they treated them. Presisent Obama has an idea and look whats going on. Where's thier idea? The American people needs help, I thought that is what we put them in off for,maybe i was wrong. President Obama I say to you keep trying, maybe when thier cars,homes, and electric isgetting cut off or taken away, they will see the light.

    The Concerned American
    P.S. I watch CNN more than I ever
    keep up the good work

    February 4, 2009 at 4:47 pm |
  12. sassafrass

    Did you just transitively argue that it's OK for elephants to be bullhooked, wounded, and even killed (as the lawsuit alleges) because that means at least our kids can love them? There is a difference between making one's peace with animals in captivity who are treated humanely and not. Photos and humane captivity can lead to beloved animals as well. It doesn't only come from sequins and tricks.

    February 4, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  13. Joy Kramer

    Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Ringling Bros retirement home for elephants in central Florida as an invited guest of the media. I never saw a more compassionate group of people than those caring for these creatures and the elephants had plenty of room to roam and feed and be around their friends. We should all be so lucky in our old age.

    February 4, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  14. Barbara

    Thank you, Jami. The biggest lie in the world right now is that leaving animals in the wild is the best thing for them. Adaptation is – evolution is – both animals and humans have to adapt to changing planetary conditions or they die. Animals and humans learning to live together is an adaptation that must happen if we want magnificent animals like Asian Elephants to survive and thrive.
    People have to stop living in an ivory tower about a wild that no longer exists.

    February 4, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
  15. anne

    amen. well said.

    February 4, 2009 at 4:01 pm |
  16. Craig

    A reasoned perspective amidst the PeTA hysteria one usually finds online. Thank you.

    February 4, 2009 at 3:59 pm |
  17. Isabel Abreu, Brazil

    With 3 to 4 meters high and a large force, the elephant is normally a docile animal, and only attack when threatened.

    The elephant is big, not only in size but also in intelligence and affection. Its prodigious memory, never forget anything! They have a high concept of family and dedicated to their protection they offer, and how we humans, too 'cry' and remember their ancestors, returning repeatedly to the place where they were buried, and it is rare to see such behavior in an animal wild. Are special no doubt, have the most expressive eyes of the animal kingdom and their eyes reflect well all his wisdom and tenderness, and as someone said, not missing even speak!

    Sad fact that the closer that the children will come from an animal, will be watching the adventures of Bindi on Discovery Kids.

    February 4, 2009 at 3:45 pm |