Those visiting the Williams County Fair last week most likely walked by Nosey the Elephant who was giving rides during the fair. In a letter dated September 4, PETA sent an urgent letter to Eugene Wilson, Senior Fair Board President, Williams County Agricultural Society. The letter called on the Williams County Fair to cancel Nosey’s appearance at the fair.
The author of the letter, Rachel Mathews, PETA Council, Captive Animal Law Enforcement, stated in a letter and in a telephone interview that PETA was calling on the Williams County Fair to cancel Nosey’s appearance as well as on local residents to boycott the fair if Nosey did appear. Mathews also explained that, with the fair passing through fairly quickly, that she was also asking for a boycott of all venues where Nosey might appear in the future.
Mathew’s letter to the Williams County Fair quotes the expert opinion of Philip K. Ensley, DVM, who spent decades working with elephants during his tenure as an Elephant Vet with the San Diego Zoo. In Ensely’s report on his findings regarding Nosey, Ensley states “Based upon my professional qualifications and experience, training, and study of the photographs, and relevant records provided for review in this case, I feel adamant in arriving at the opinion that the female African elephant known as Nosey has undergone long term suffering and abuse and should be surrendered immediately, and without delay. This is the worst, most prolonged, documented example of an uncorrected case of suffering and abuse in an elephant I have ever reviewed”. Ensley’s findings point out calloused skin, arthritis, a lack of exposure to other elephants, and overall poor care as the basis of his findings.
Mathew’s letter also points out the hundreds of citations issued to Nosey’s owner, Hugo Liebel. The citations are for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Mathews explains that the vast majority of these citations come with little in the way of disciplinary action other than small fines due to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s limited ability to enforce the laws and that her belief is that Liebel continues to exhibit Nosey despite her weakened condition solely for monetary gain.
Additionally, Mathew’s letter points out that there is a risk to spectators as well. Nosey has previously attacked a Liebel employee, striking him with her tusk, lifting him off of his feet and throwing him back down. Mathew’s also asserts that Liebel has continued to allow unsupervised contact with Nosey – including during Nosey’s visit to the Williams County Fair in 2013 when Liebel left Nosey with his young son, who allowed the elephant to wander off.
Liebel was not available for comment. However, his position is clearly stated on the sign that hangs on the outside of Nosey’s cage, which reads “Hi, My name is Nosey, but my nickname is Tiny. I am 31 years old. I am a female African Bush Elephant from Zimbabwe. I am approximately 6800 pounds and 8 ½ feet tall. My herd was killed by poachers for their ivory. I was adopted by the Liebel family when I was a baby. I can eat up to 400 lbs. of food per day. My home is in Florida at my family farm. I am an American Citizen and protected by the Federal Government, local authorities, and above all my family whom I have been with for 29 years. No fences, barriers, or walls could hold me. Love is what keeps me here. My family and I have been harassed to the point of prosecution. If you are an animal lover, please treat ALL animals with respect. Let me live my life in harmony. I love to make my human friends happy. In the wild my herd used to walk unbelievable amounts of miles just to find food and water daily. I have been trained by a 5000 year old method known as Free Contact. If you would like to donate to further enhance my facilities please talk to my herd leaders Tom, Franciszka, or my siblings. Love, Nosey ‘Tiny’”.
Mathew’s points out that the Free Contact method of training that Nosey’s sign mentions is part of the problem, however, as the basis of Free Contact training is the bullhook. In his report, Ensley states that “The use of the bullhook on elephants has become a source of controversy; however, the fact is that when baby elephants are trained using the bullhook there is a progression of training whereby, whether there is application of or the subsequent threat or visual presence of the bullhook, the elephant is reminded of the discomfort and pain bullhooks can cause and know they must comply. The bullhook despite its many uses or applications remains a basic potent symbol to an elephant to reinforce authority and dominance by its tactile cueing”.
Mathews hopes that PETA’s calling on venues whom have hosted Nosey as well as to the public at large will help further the chances that Nosey can be confiscated and placed in a reputable sanctuary where “she will be given acres to roam and have the ability to make choices about where she wants to walk and what other elephants she wants to socialize with – where her free-will will be returned to her.
PETA’s letter to the Williams County Fair as well as the findings of Dr. Ensley are available upon request. At the time of this printing, the Williams County Fair had not yet replied to the letter. Interested parties can also visit www.PETA.org for more information on PETA’s position on Nosey.