To date, Croatia, Singapore, Austria, Israel and Costa Rica have all banned wild animals in circuses. Similar bans on animal use in traveling circuses in Costa Rica, Finland and Denmark only prohibit the use of wild animals or certain species.
The Bolivian law, signed earlier this month, was tabled by Congresswoman Ximena Flores of Potosi. It is expected to be published shortly.
The law arose as a result of evidence gathered during an undercover investigation by the nonprofit Animal Defenders International.
Lion confined to a tiny cage in the Circo Barney y Sus Amigos (Photo courtesy ADI)
Investigators found lions confined in a tiny cage on the back of a truck - two were pregnant but were forced to continue to perform. ADI videos show circus employees beating a lion in the circus ring with a baton and beating a caged lion with a metal pan. In one video, a caged lion was jerked by a chain around its neck by circus workers outside the cage, causing visible pain.
Three brown bears were kept in tiny compartments measuring just 2.5 x 3 meters (8.2 x 9.8 feet) inside a cage on the back of a truck. Their only exercise was the walk to and from the ring for their short performance. There were no safety barriers to protect the audience as the animals were made to dance, play dead and ride a bicycle.
Other ADI videos showed circus employees beating a wolf and a llama in the circus ring.
The findings of the investigation were presented to the Bolivian Congress together with a report from Animal Defenders International on the scientific evidence of suffering of animals in traveling circuses, "The Science on Suffering."
The new law bans the use of wild and domestic animals in circuses in the Bolivia, as their conditions and confinement are considered acts of cruelty.
The circuses will be allowed one year to adapt their shows to a humans-only program and during this time, the government will issue regulations on confiscation and monetary sanctions for any breaches of the law.
ADI Chief Executive Jan Creamer said, “This is a truly historic day for circus animals. The undercover investigations, the scientific research and the hard work of our supporters in Bolivia has made a difference for animals that will reach around the world."
"Bolivia is the first country to ban animal circuses in South America and the first worldwide to ban both domestic and wild animals in circuses," said Creamer. "We applaud President Evo Morales for setting the highest standard for animal protection for South America, which the rest of the world now needs to follow. We also salute the efforts of Congresswoman Flores and all the local organizations and who along with ADI worked tirelessly to ensure that the bill became a law."
Groups in Bolivia who worked alongside ADI on the campaign for the new legislation include: Focomade, Vida Silvestre, Biosfera, Codac, Zooprama, Anima Naturalis-Bolivia, Gaia Pacha, EBA-Bolivia, and Animales SOS, among others.
Bear held in a very small cage on the back of a truck by Circo Abuhadba (Photo courtesy ADI)
In recognition of President Morales’ stand on the issue and his government’s prompt action, Animal Defenders International, ADI, has presented the Bolivian government with the Toto Award on animal protection and conservation.
With offices in London, San Francisco and Bogota, ADI campaigns to protect animals in entertainment, replacement of animals in experiments; worldwide traffic in endangered species; vegetarianism; factory farming; pollution and conservation. ADI also rescues animals in distress worldwide. The group's evidence has led to campaigns and legislative action to protect animals around the world.
The Born Free Foundation congratulated its fellow UK animal charity for their efforts to raise awareness of the plight of animals in traveling circuses in Bolivia. "In the UK, traveling circuses are still permitted to use both wild and domestic animals – an embarrassing situation for a country that claims to pride itself on being a nation of animal lovers," Born Free said in a statement.
Dr. Sandeep K. Jain, a member of the Animal Welfare Board of India, said, "I welcome this step by the Bolivia Government." In India, circuses that want to use elephants must seek recognition from the Central Zoo Authority and performances by other exotics and domestic animals need registration with AWBI.
India's Central Zoo Authority has laid down certain conditions for recognizing captive animal facilities, including that the circus company will have tranquilizing guns and medicines. "But it is flouted everywhere and mahaouts and public is being hit and killed by elephants under continuous stess," said Jain.
"It will be nice that these elephants and other animals like hippos, who are usually blind due to infection through dirty water in which they are kept, should be immediately removed from circuses and rehabilitated in natural surroundings," said Jain. "After that performances by other animals may be banned."
Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.