For Immediate Release: March 18, 2015
(Gainesville, FL) — “Topsy,” an Asian elephant who was born in the wild but spent her entire life in the circus, died in August 2014. Her death came to light only recently as a result of a public records request from the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF).
Topsy was owned by Frank Murray, a circus elephant handler. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Topsy was buried on Murray’s property in Archer, Florida. A necropsy was not conducted to determine the cause of death, despite Topsy’s history of health problems.
In 2012, Topsy tested positive for tuberculosis antibodies, raising concerns about a threat to public health.
“Topsy reportedly tested positive for the antibodies for tuberculosis on two blood tests in 2012, and was denied entry into both Maine and Wisconsin for that reason,” explained Deborah Robinson, attorney and circus specialist, “Given that tuberculosis does not necessarily produce symptoms, and given that these tests can show the presence of TB long before it can be detected otherwise, they point to a strong possibility that Murray’s other elephant, Annette, has been exposed to the disease, which is transmissible to humans. Annette is still being used to give rides.”
For at least 20 years, Frank Murray’s two elephants, Topsy and Annette, traveled together. The elephants were used in circuses and to give rides at Renaissance fairs across the country. Annette is currently being used to give rides at the Bay Area Renaissance Festival in Tampa (weekends until March 29).
“It is unfortunate that we will never know why Topsy died. Surprisingly, owners of captive wildlife, even endangered Asian elephants, are not required to report deaths to the FWC,” said ARFF Campaigns Coordinator Nick Atwood. “Topsy’s death heightens our concerns that other elephants in Florida could fall through the cracks after a life of exploitation.”
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