Tests reveal circus elephants were drugged

Two elephants involved in a crushing incident which left a circus worker fighting for his life have tested positive for drugs.

Laboratory tests ordered by Courtney Brothers Circus following the incident in Cork City last month have found traces of opiates in the systems of both animals.

Circus boss Wayne Courtney said they had veterinary records to prove neither animal received medication in the weeks before the incidents in Blackpool.

He said the independent lab tests, conducted by Veterinary Lab Services Ireland Ltd, proved the elephants’ food was tampered with by an outside source while the circus was in Cork.

“Since we left Cork, there hasn’t been a single issue. It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out,” he said.

The circus plans to seek legal advice before deciding whether to lodge a formal complaint with gardaí.

Spaniard Justino Munez was crushed by Baby the elephant when she fell on him after being charged by another elephant, Belinda, in a holding pen during the circus’s visit to Blackpool earlier this month.

He was left in a critical condition but has since made a recovery.

The accident came just days after Baby broke free from her pen and charged through a busy retail park.

The runaway incident sparked protests at the circus by animal rights activists.

However, elephant handler Joy Gartner insisted that the elephants’ behaviour was out of character. He expressed fears their food may have been tampered with.

Pathology reports show that Baby, a 38-year-old Indian elephant, and Belinda, a 42-year-old Indian elephant, tested positive for opiates.

“Subsequent confirmatory tests indicated that the positive opiate screen is due to the presence of codeine and morphine,” the reports said.

“During the course of the confirmatory testing, the presence of paracetamol was detected. The presence of morphine is likely to be as a result of metabolised codeine.”

It was not clear what doses were in their systems.

Mr Courtney said he was shocked by the results.

“But Joy is delighted. We were talking about it yesterday and Joy said at least he now knows what the problem was. He was more worried when he didn’t know what was going on. Now we know somebody tampered with them. We have proof it was done but no proof who did it.”

The circus, which is heading to Tipperary this weekend, no longer allows the public to feed the animals.

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