In the wild, female elephants usually don’t begin mating until they are 18, but Ringling Bros. used Shirley for breeding when she was only 7 years old. Restrained with chains during her labor, Shirley couldn’t see her baby, Riccardo, when he was born and inadvertently kicked him, so they pulled him out of her reach and prevented her from touching him, using a bullhook to make her back away.
Eight months later, Riccardo was euthanized after sustaining severe and irreparable fractures to both hind legs when he fell off a circus pedestal during a training exercise involving a bullhook and ropes.
Riccardo may have been afflicted with a bone disorder caused by malnourishment because his mother was never allowed to nurse him.
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