USDA Confiscates Ill Asian Elephant, Turns It Over to Tennessee Sanctuary

Tuesday, 11/25/03 | Middle Tennessee News & Information
Staff Writer

The federal Department of Agriculture has seized a 57-year-old Asian elephant from an Illinois firm and turned the animal over to The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald.

The animal, a circus veteran named Delhi, is suffering from ''foot rot,'' a condition that could lead to her demise.

''She's doing well. She made the trip OK and is adjusting. Her eyes light up when she gets treats,'' said Carol Buckley, the sanctuary's executive director.

Delhi's owner, John Cuneo of Richmond, Ill., has been cited by the USDA for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, according to Jim Rogers, USDA spokesman. Cuneo's business, Hawthorn Corp., leases elephants to circuses.

''I'm not sure how rare it is for an elephant to be confiscated, but it's the first time in my seven years here,'' Rogers said.

According to Buckley, Asian elephants in captivity often develop foot problems because they are confined much of the time.

''If they don't walk enough or if they stand too long on hard surfaces like concrete, then the bottom of their foot bruises and leads to an infection. If it isn't treated, the infection can get into the bone. Foot rot is the No. 1 killer of captive elephants,'' Buckley said.

Tomorrow a veterinarian will use a portable machine to take X-rays of Delhi's feet to determine whether any of the bones are infected. If there is infection in the bone, surgery will be required, she said.

The Elephant Sanctuary, which occupies 2,700 acres in Lewis County, is home to eight elephants.

Leon Alligood covers Tennessee for The Tennessean.
Contact him at 615-259-8279 or by e-mail at


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