According to the North American Regional Studbook for the African Elephant, Nosey was born sometime in 1982 in the African nation of Zimbabwe. It is likely that her home was Hwange National Park, the country’s largest wildlife preserve.
Around 1984, Nosey was wild-caught and transferred on a 22-hour, high-altitude Boeing 707 flight to the United States by eccentric millionaire, Arthur Jones of JumboLair in Ocala, Florida. The capture was reportedly a rescue effort to save 63 baby elephants from a government issued culling and was featured on an episode of ABCs 20/20 called, The Flying Elephants. Jones’ plan to create a “true American herd” was abandoned within a few years. Nosey was one of around 40 elephants sold to circuses or zoos, while 10 elephants died between 1984 and 1987 from transport stress, wounds, and disease.
In 1986, Nosey left JumboLair and was transferred to David Meeks of the Meeks Company in South Carolina, now known as Hollywild Animal Park. When Arthur Jones decided to disperse his JumboLair herd, he contracted with Meeks to find the elephants new homes.
Meeks advertised their sale in The Circus Report: “Available for Sale Baby African Elephants Ranging from 3 to 5 years old. All our BABIES are broke to leg chain and lead. Any SPECIAL TRAINING is available on request … GET YOUR ELEPHANTS NOW … while they are AVAILABLE, AFFORDABLE and SMALL. Our babies ARE all SOUND, HEALTHY and acclimated to U.S. climate and diet” (ad printed Jan 27, 1986).
1988: The Liebels
In 1988, Nosey was purchased by Hugo Tomi Liebel (aka Tommy Liebel, Hugh Blum, or Hugo Bloom) of the Liebel Family Circus (aka Florida State Family Circus, Great American Family Circus, Liebling Bros. Circus, or Liebling Bros. Family Circus) of Davenport, Florida. She has been held captive, alone, ever since. She gives rides and performs in fairs, flea markets, festivals, and private events, and hasn’t been allowed the company of another African elephant. (Though the Liebels have had no other elephants since Nosey’s purchase, they were documented to have had at least one and possibly two previous elephant deaths.) She has been exhibited under the stage names Tiny, Peanut, and Dumbo, and is often contracted out to work in other circuses, such as the Hamid or Garden Brothers. Her “normal” route takes her from Florida in the winter, up the Eastern seaboard as far north as New York, and back through the mid-west and Texas.
Nosey, like the Liebel’s previous elephant, was trained to perform unnatural tricks from an early age.
Hugo Liebel has been cited for violating the Animal Welfare Act numerous times over the decades on multiple accounts, including but not limited to:
- failure to allow access to records and property
- failure to provide enclosure of sufficient strength to contain elephants
- feeding moldy hay
- withholding food from the elephant for training purposes
- sharp pieces of metal exposed in the elephant trailer
- noticeable hyperkeratosis on the ears
- failure to provide an elephant with shelter from the sunlight
- inadequate food supplies
- giving elephant rides to the public despite the fact that the circus’ state permit had expired
- open bags of feed used for the elephant on the floor of the trailer adjacent to a bag of feed that had been chewed open by vermin
- tethering Nosey in such a manner than she could move only a few feet from side to side
- chaining Nosey by two feet so tightly that she could not lie down on her side or make any forward or backward movement
- failure to handle elephants in a manner that would protect the public and the animals
- an elephant transport trailer in disrepair without adequate ventilation
- no written records of veterinary examination and evaluation of the elephants’ skin
- an elephant suffering from an untreated skin condition
- failure to have their elephant handlers tested for tuberculosis
- sharp pieces of glass used during an act in the show ring that could have easily injured the elephants’ feet
- not providing the minimum space to an elephant housed in a trailer
- transporting an elephant and a steer in the same trailer at risk to the steer’s sharp horns
- failure to provide an adequate barrier between the animals and the public
- splintered wood on the inside of the door of the elephant transport trailer
- repetitive failure to give veterinary care to an elephant who had a buildup of oil, dirt, and dead skin clogging the skin pores on [the animal’s] body
- failure to supply permanent housing for Nosey when not on the road
- stereotypic behavior of Nosey
- failure to maintain the elephant barn which had protruding nails and metal rods
- leaving the elephant unattended or under the control of a child during public exhibition
- improper foot care leading to an overgrown toenail, and weight loss in Nosey.
In 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture brought 33 formal charges against Nosey’s owner, which could have resulted in her confiscation. Instead, in a settlement agreement reached in 2013, Liebel was assessed a civil penalty of $7,500 and ordered to stop violating the AWA. Despite this agreement, Liebel has been cited at least four additional times for failing to protect Nosey or other animals in his care as well as the public with whom they come in contact.
Her Future: Sanctuary!
After working for three decades, Nosey has earned her retirement in a true elephant sanctuary, where she can live in peace with other African elephants. No more rides, no more performances, no more bull hooks!