Behind the Scenes at the Circus: Meet the Elephants or ‘The Divas’ of the Show

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - They don’t call it ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ for nothing…

“In the show this year we have over 95 exotic and domestic animals, we have horses, we have 18 ferocious tigers in the ring, we also have beautiful Asian elephants and they also brought ferrets, donkeys, snakes and even rabbits this year,” says Ashley Vargas, the All Access Pre-Show Host.

Along with over 100 performers from 17 countries, they travel by train, city to city, doing what they love most. “It was actually my love for animals that brought me to the circus. I’ve always been a daredevil and I love animals and it’s that bond between the animals that we have, that makes it so much fun. It’s nice to be able to show the audience the bond and the connection we have with our animals here,” says Vargas.

I actually got to see that bond up close and personal with these pampered pachyderms, known affectionately as ‘The Divas.’

“So have you ever hung out with elephants before? There’s a first time for everything!” says Assistant Animal Supervisor Ryan Henning.

“We have six Asian elephants all females on the show traveling with us, total we have 48 Asian elephants between our three traveling circuses and our Center for Elephant Conservation down in Florida. They’re such rare animals and we work so closely with them, building a bond based off of mutual trust, respect and understanding. They’re like our family members,” says Henning.

“They drink about 150 to 200 gallons of water a day each. Their main diet is grain like a horse and lots of fruits and vegetables and their favorite treat, take a guess, is bread. We feed 200 loaves a bread a week between these six elephants. It’s pretty cool, they have 150,000 muscles and tendons right here in their trunk. They can pick up a raw egg without breaking it or possibly even rip a tree out of the ground by its roots. The little finger right here at the tip of their nose, with that little finger, they can pick up objects as small as skittles and M&Ms, even a dime off of the ground. We spend over six million dollars every year providing food and veterinary care for all of the animals on the show.”

Talk about carb loading! Anything for the divas! The brainy, beautiful and beloved stars of the show… Not just any show, The Greatest Show on Earth!

FUN FACT: The elephants know over 50 verbal commands in German, French, English and Hindi! The circus is performing at the Smoothie King Center through Sunday.