Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I once shot an elephant in my pajamas... What he was doing in them I'll never know

The police have received some strange calls — but few like the one they got when circus performers Susie and Bunny took it `on the lam' in Newmarket

It's one thing to wake up and smell the coffee. It's something else entirely to wake up and smell . . .

"I opened the front door and I didn't know what the smell was," said Shu Mei yesterday. "But not good. And then I saw it."

An elephant's "calling card" on her lawn. Poop that would need a pretty big scoop.

That's what happens when the power supply is accidentally cut to the electric fence that keeps in three circus elephants and two of them decide to see if the grass really is greener on the other side. The third was fast asleep and missed the early morning outing.

Garden Bros. Circus is appearing through this weekend at the Ray Twinney Recreation Complex in Newmarket. The three Asian elephants, Susie, Bunny and Minnie, have a compound set up in the parking lot, where they are cared for by trainer Billy Morris.

Morris said someone seems to have tripped over the power cord to the fence after he checked on the elephants just before 2:30 a.m.

"The next thing I knew, the cops came to get me," he said. "Susie and Bunny had gone on the lam."

Susie wasn't far away, sampling the grass on the edge of the complex. Bunny kept going. A York Region Police dispatcher told patrol cars to be on the lookout for "one outstanding elephant . . . last seen heading north on Crossland Gate."

An officer radioed in that he had the "outstanding elephant" in view. "It's just eating someone's tree."

That was Shu Mei's tree and Bunny made an untidy meal out of her lilies, too, scattering leaves around.

"It didn't wake me," she said. "My neighbour heard something, but she thought it was kids."

How do you get an elephant to stop eating and come home to bed?

"You just call their names and they'll follow you," Morris said. "They're good girls. It's probably best that no one was out on the sidewalk, but they wouldn't have hurt anyone. They love people."

Someone passing in a car spotted Susie and called police to say, "We've found an elephant."

"Sorry?" said the dispatcher, perhaps thinking it was one of those little pink ones that some people see. "How big are we talking here?"

Ian Garden, president and ringmaster of the Mississauga-based circus, said he believed this was the first elephant escape in its 70-year history.

"Obviously, you don't want elephants loose in the neighbourhood and we'll be taking steps to make sure this doesn't happen again," he said.

As Garden spoke, Morris was soaping up and hosing down the truants to get them ready for their two performances yesterday. The elephants lifted their feet, laid down and rolled over on command, opening their mouths for a drink from the hose and clearly enjoying being brushed behind their ears.

"My wife Carolina rides one of them in the ring," Garden said. "They're lovely, affectionate animals. And their dung makes very good fertilizer."

Shu Mei wasn't impressed.

"I didn't touch it," she said, ruefully eyeing her chewed-up lilies. "The circus sent someone to pick it up. They gave me tickets for the show. I'll see the elephants there."

Jul 13, 2007 04:30 AM
Bill Taylor
Feature Writer
The Star.com

Sent to me from the lovely and talented Jinda

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