Circus elephant, 58, causes chaos in Montana town after slipping her handlers

An elephant escaped from a traveling circus and wandered through the streets of Butte, Montana, on Tuesday, stopping traffic, knocking over a fence, and defecating in someone’s yard.

The elephant, reportedly a 58-year-old Asian elephant named Viola, was in the parking lot of the city’s civic centre being washed ahead of a Tuesday night performance with the Jordan World Circus, when a backfiring car spooked the massive animal, sending her running, Civic Center manager Bill Melvin told KXLY.

A bystander named Brittany McGinnis recorded a video of the elephant running across the busy Harrison Avenue and into the parking lot of a casino with a handler in pursuit.

“An elephant walking down the road. Oh my god,” she can be heard saying in the video. “Only in Butte. A circus elephant got loose.”

The escape only lasted about 10 minutes, and the elephant’s handlers corralled her back to safety, with neither the animal nor any people sustaining injuries.

“The circus, of course, is very professional, and they had a professional trainer and he was real calm and the animal was calm and they were able to get her right back,” Mr Melvin told the Daily Montanan. “It was not nearly as dramatic as you would think.”

The outlet also reported that the elephant that got lose was a different specimen named Tola.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a statement on Tuesday, condemning the incident and accusing the circus and its reported animal supplier, Carson & Barnes Circus, of overworking Viola, who it said has escaped multiple times in the past.

The Independent has contacted Jordan World Circus and Carson & Barnes Circus for comment.