Senator slams circus use of endangered elephants

A Catalan senator has claimed that Spanish circuses are breaking international laws by using endangered Asian elephants that were captured in the wild.

Senator slams circus use of endangered elephants
The commercial use of endangered species is banned under the CITES convention. Photo: Louis Engival/Flickr

Jordi Guillot, a senator for the Catalan Green Socialist party and member of the Parliamentary Association for the Protection of Animals, has slammed Spanish circuses for their use of thirteen endangered Asian elephants.

Europa Press revealed on Friday that the politician had filed an official parliamentary question calling on the government to put an end to the big top employment of the protected pachyderms, listed as a critically-endangered species in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

According to InfoCircus, a platform created by animal welfare NGOs including the Born Free Foundation, the elephants were born in the wild and as a result are not allowed to be used commercially.

Asian elephants, which can be told from African elephants by their comparatively smaller ears, have declined in number by at least 50% over the last three generations.

Guillot noted that the European Commission had confirmed circuses as a specific example of the type of "commercial use" prohibited under CITES, which is fully ratified in the EU, in response to a written question from an MEP.

In his question to parliament he argued: "If the Commission interprets the Convention in this way, member states should apply it."

He added that the use of Asian elephants should also be prohibited in advertising and requested clarification from the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness on what they defined as "commercial use".

He also asked why Spain does not forbid the use of Asian elephants in circuses when the European Commission does.


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Flamenco star Galvan herds cats in new circus show

Israel Galvan, the brooding star of modern flamenco, is used to conjuring up miracles on stage. But in his new show Galvan has to herd cats.

Flamenco star Galvan herds cats in new circus show
Photos by Stephane de Sakutin / AFP

The Spanish dancer shares the stage with an extended family of felines in “Gatomaquia” at the Romanes circus in Paris.   

Cats can be pretty capricious at the best of times, and Galvan's co-stars have all the extra air of independence that comes with belonging to a gypsy (Roma) troupe.

Yet the 45-year-old Seville-born dancer takes the dozen or so wandering toms in his stride in the show, which is both a humorous nod to the big cats that are the traditional stars of the big top, and the Spanish expression “four cats”, for when there isn't a soul around.

“The cats are the finishing touch, they are the elves of the camp,” he said referring to the Romany circus, which was allowed to set up in a corner of one of the French capital's richest neighbourhoods three years ago despite the objections of some well-heeled residents.

The enfant terrible of flamenco, who created the hit show “Lo Real” about the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Roma, gave up his hotel room to move into a caravan with the Romanes family until the show ends this weekend.   

“It is a unique opportunity for me to be here,” he told AFP.   

“When I arrived I thought to myself, 'Stay a while and share in this.'”   

The Romanes family say their traditional Roma circus is the last of its kind, with the matriarch of the clan, Delia, taking to the stage to sing after Galvan while her five daughters also dance.

Galvan, who has often horrified flamenco purists, dances in red high heels for part of the show.

But he is far from worried by the critics. He said you never can tell how they will react “but at the circus people are much more relaxed.”

By AFP's Anna Pelegri 

READ MORE: 'Spain's gypsies are more invisible than ever'