Question & Answer About the Circus

Blue throated macaw

Since many people have the same concerns about us joining the circus, I thought I would offer a little question and answer post for those FAQ when it comes to us being performers in the circus with our animals. Obviously, many circuses have bad reputations when it comes to the treatment of their animals, but you shouldn’t let that ruin your perspective on them all.

Blue throated macaw

Our show, Illuscination, has tons of animals incorporated into it. And each act is hired by Ringling. What that means is, in our show Ringling doesn’t actually own any of the animal acts or their animals.

Also, each act hires what is called a “groom” to pick up and clean up after the animals. These people are hired by the acts and paid by Ringling per the act’s contract but not chosen or hired directly by Ringling. And these grooms are not trainers, so they merely look after the animals and make sure they are bathed, fed, watered, groomed and picked up after as well as getting enough exercise and outdoor time (weather permitting).

Hopefully, that clears up a lot for those of you that fear the Ringling harms animals in any way – now you know they don’t own them, they have no employees of their own in charge of them and they don’t do any of the training either. Ringling simply hires specific animal acts whether it’s horses, lions, elephants or in our case… parrots!

Even with our own parrots, it’s the same thing (except we are our own grooms, hehe) we transport, train, handle, care for and look after our own animals. No one else touches them (well, okay, except in the preshow when we put them on you for a photo )

Blue throated macaw

To check out the ever evolving tour schedule, click here. And make sure to come an hour early to meet some of our parrots up close and personally!

Do the animals enjoy performing?

I like to think so from how I interpret their body language and willingness to do so.

It’s the ultimate situation for them. Parrots are super social animals and need constant interaction with other beings whether it’s other birds or other humans. This is why the preshow is so healthy for our birds and such an amazing opportunity for them and us. They meet thousands of people at each show, and interact with anyone and everyone. Our birds will literally sit happily on anyone’s arm we ask them to for a photo or just purely the experience for the person. You can’t get that type of socialization anywhere else and it’s so good for our birds to learn everyone is ok.

Also, the other types of performing they do aside from socializing is physical – we ask them to fly in the show. What’s better than seeing a bird fly? That’s what they were designed to do and should be doing. This is a great form of exercise for them and flight training is also amazing for bond building between person and parrot.

Swainson Toucan

What do the animals get for performing? What methods of training are used?

Many of the animals in the show are rewarded directly on stage for the behaviors they’re being asked to do in the show. For example, the lions get large pieces of meat before, during and after their act. Our toucan, Fiji, gets blue berries while on stage within her magical prop. The elephant who does preshow gets an entire loaf of bread for a job well done! And so on…

All the trainers in our show use positive reinforcement (treat rewards) with their animals as well as what Brian McMillan (the lion trainer) refers to as “affection training”.

Seeing what Brian can do with his large cats will blow your mind! And his resume alone is powerful as he has worked in Hollywood with his animals for movies where swiping at the air, growling or running up as if to attack are all trained behaviors put on cue.

The best way to demonstrate that there is no animal abuse in this circus show is for you to come and witness it for yourself.

Congo African Grey Parrot, blue throated macaw

Why are there such terrible things posted about circuses in general?

Animal activists from PETA believe in no human-animal relationship whatsoever and make it their business to show that everyone shouldn’t own animals. They will go to massive lengths to ensure their video footage looks as bad as possible, even if that means doctoring it, using extensive editing and adding terrible sound effects.  They would rather see an animal dead then in a loving home with a human being. In fact, one lady that is a member of PETA admitted to volunteering at an animal shelter and killing hundreds of animals every morning before anyone else got there.

Ringling has a famous “animal walk” on the larger circus shows (blue and red) which travel by train. This is where they walk the circus animals from the train, to the arena. This walk is brutal because PETA always shows up there to video the walk and scare the animals to make their videos more believable to the public.

Animal activists have popped balloons to scare horses, yanked on halters, leashes and leads on all types of animals to spook the animal and send the trainer into a state of calming the animal down under terrible circumstances that would have otherwise not been created except that the animal activists want the worst looking video footage possible.

The bottom line? The debate could go back and forth all day, but don’t believe everything you read and see especially when all the complaints only come from one source…

Swainson Toucan

Dave and I are going by what we are experiencing first hand and we around all the circus animals all the time, we would know and see if they weren’t being treated right and the truth is, I’ve never seen them treated so well. And I can promise none of the videos circulating online of terrible things going on with animals are from our show. Our elephant trainer alone, Ramon, has not a single accident on his record and we are all inspected by the USDA and the best veterinarians in the world during often and random times throughout our tour.

Animals are Ringling’s first priority and everyone signs a contract specifically on respecting the animals. Such things as animal compounds are set up before anything else is considered, and that animals always have the right of way backstage. Also, all performers and crew are not to approach an animal unless asked to by the trainer. The utmost respect for these animals is shown and from our experience thus far, it has been amazing for us and our animals.

We truly hope you will come to a show and see for yourself.

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