Last night, the Tonight Show featured a beautiful Asian elephant named Roxy who was paraded on stage with two handlers in tow to interact with host Jimmy Fallon for what was supposed to be a lighthearted bit. And sure enough, the crowd guffawed as she stomped on some fruit before being directed to lift Fallon up with her trunk.
It might have been a real laugh-fest, that is, if it weren't really so deeply sad.
At one point, perhaps to take the clearly exploitative edge off by adding a smidgen of educational value to the segment, guest Jeff Musial, an ‘animal expert,' offered this bit of important information about Roxy's species:
"People don't understand, they're disappearing so fast in the wild that conservation is a big thing with these guys."
And he's right. Every year, hundreds of elephants are abducted from the forests of Asia to be sold into captivity for human use as beasts of burden or as props for entertainment. But what he failed to mention was that Roxy herself was one of them taken from her natural habitat for that latter purpose.
According to the captive elephant database Elephant.se, Roxy was born in the wild in 1965 and sent to be a performer for the Tarzan Zerbini Circus -- an operator that's infamous for its poor treatment of animals. In fact, in 1999, the USDA issued the circus a citation for failing to provide veterinary care to Roxy who was suffering from a swollen front foot.
Roxy, retired from regular circus duties, is now held captive at the Two Tails Ranch in Florida. But despite the name, it's hardly an animal sanctuary. The facility, operated by the circus founder's daughter, Patricia Zerbini, still rents out elephants for events and makes them perform under the label of ‘educational programs' -- perhaps a bit like the highly informative bit that aired on the Tonight Show.