Narrating the correlation of elephants as related to their import, groupings, breeding and transfers,
along with other elephant related topics.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Endangered Ark Foundation - Breeding Program

The Carson & Barnes Circus and Endangered Ark Foundation recently celebrated the first birthday of their elephant herd's youngest member, Hugo! The product of natural breeding between 20 year old Tommy and 42 year old Whimpy, his addition brings the total number of males for the facility to four.

Hugo, 08/2011
Courtesy of Carson & Barnes Circus on Facebook

Although the Carson and Barnes Circus has held the one of the largest herds of Asian elephants in the country since the 1970s, including many males, their breeding program did not begin in-house but rather in cooperation with zoos and private individuals during the 1990s. The Hawthorn Corporation near Chicago, Illinois, bred several females at their home location with male Tunga. The Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri, took in several females at different times on breeding loan to mate with their successful siring bull, Onyx. Elephant trainer Bucky Steele provided reproductive use of his performing male Buke at his home facility in north Texas. In the 2000s, Riddle's Elephant Sanctuary in Arkansas also took on breeding loan individual females with hopes of siring offspring by teenage Hank, the facility's only Asian male. However, no location was able to provide the Oklahoma-based circus with viable offspring.

Hank & Del Rita, Riddle's Elephant Sanctuary, 08/2004
Courtesy of R Easley

The breeding program was started with success by a private individual, Robert "Bucky" Steele. Steele's own elephants began breeding as early as 1978 with a stillborn calf born to nine year old Buke and 13 year old Zola. ( Correction: The calf was not a stillborn, but died very young. See comments below ). Buke's second calf was born viable to 11 year old Whimpy in 1981 but died less than two years later. Buke was claimed Steele later went into business with Canada's African Lion Safari, contributing to an elephant program which now boasts one of the top Asian elephant breeding programs in North America.

"The young male in the black and white is Buke, with Zola and the others, not too sure where it was taken."
Courtesy of W Jackson

"The colour photo was at his [Bucky Steele] winter quarters as far as I know with Bucky, family and the male calf Zola had that died."
Courtesy of W Jackson

In spring 1995, Bucky Steele sold all of his elephants, sans Buke, to D.R. Miller, owner of Carson and Barnes Circus. Prior to his death, Miller, the circus kingpin, constructed the Endangered Ark Foundation with the purpose of both contributing to the captive Asian elephant population and ensuring the future of elephants with the circus.

The facility's first in-house birth was celebrated in late 1998 with the birth of Baby Jennie to Buke and Carson and Barnes own imported elephant, Isa. As with many Asian elephant calves, five year old Jennie succumbed to the deadly Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus in 2004. With at least one stillborn recorded in between, Buke sired his second successful calf, again with Isa, for Carson and Barnes. The male calf, named Obert after D.R. Miller's father, was born in August 2003, almost a year following Buke's death.

The Endangered Ark Foundation celebrated their following successful births with pairings between the captive born Tommy and former Steele elephant Whimpy. In April 2007, Val was born at the Oklahoma facility, followed by her brother Hugo nearly four years later to the day.

Tommy, 12/2009
Courtesy of R Easley

Val and herd, 12/2009
Courtesy of R Easley

The future of the Endangered Ark Foundation's breeding program looks promising for second generation births. Nine year old Obert is unrelated to five year old Val, giving hope to breeding of the pair once the two age to sexual maturity.

Obert, Val and Hugo, 01/2012
Courtesy of Carson & Barnes Circus on Facebook

Both Val and her full brother Hugo are traveling on the road with their mother and her companions of several decades, the former Steele/Engesser elephants. Obert resides at the show's home facility, retired from performing.

Whimpy & Hugo, Spring 2012
Courtesy of Carson & Barnes Circus on Facebook

3 comments:

  1. Radar,
    Are you sure there was a calf born in 1978 that was stillborn? The calf pictured above with Bucky and the red sleigh in the Wayne Jackson photo was born in either 77 or 78, I don't recall exactly. I was at Bucky's place in Seagoville when it was born, laying off between Texas Dates. Bucky brought it into the Ft. Worth date but took it home a few day's later as it wasn't eating well, and it later died.

    What happened to the original C & B "Obert?" I took he, along with Kelly and Tracy to Denver Colo. for a show when they were about 3-5 years old. Obert was a good little guy.

    Wade Burck

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wade,
    Thank you very much for pointing out my mistake! I was under the impression the calf was Shoney, but that was Whimpy's first calf. Wayne clearly states the calf pictured was Zola's. The stillborn description was based on Studbook records and those of Bob Cline. Both state the calf was born/died on 02/01/1978. Who was the Fort Worth date for? That might help pinpoint the time frame in which the animal lived.

    Obert died in a freak accident. In May 1982 in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, five Carson & Barnes elephants broke loose and ran towards a cliff. One was recovered before she made the descent, but three of the cows fell on top of Obert, whose neck was immediately broken. The survivors, Kelly, Traci and Isa, were recovered successfully. Who was the fifth? More discussion of the incident can be found at the Circus No-Spin Zone. A picture of Obert and other females can be found at ShowMe Elephants.

    >> http://circusnospin.blogspot.com/2009/01/carson-and-barnes-elephants.html
    >> http://www.showmeelephants.com/2011/12/bill-reynolds-collection-carson-and.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. Radar,
    It was the Ft. Worth date of the old Texas dates, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Ft. Worth. I don't recall the dates. In regards to Obert, I have found it is best to have circus jackpots confirmed by at least 3 sources.

    Wade Burck

    ReplyDelete

I eagerly anticipate associating with new individuals with an interest or history in elephants, elephant history and elephant record keeping. If you have further information regarding the animals or locations questioned in the article, please leave a comment or message me in an effort to complete their records for elephant historians.