Meet the Acrobat Who Performs Alongside 5 Elephants: 'They Are Like My Brothers and Sisters'
The 20-year-old acrobat is the seventh generation of animal trainers in his family.
This spry 20-year-old leads a troupe of acrobats, and his five other teammates are elephants.
Rene Casselly Jr., an animal trainer and acrobat, performs at the Hungary National Circus with his family’s five African elephants.
"My act with the elephant is a really unique act," he told Barcroft Media. "I am the only one in the world doing the combination between tumbling and working together with elephants.”
Rene, who has performed in the circus for the last four years, can be seen being flicked and flipped in the air by elephants by their trunks in a video licensed by Barcroft Media.
The passion comes from Rene's family, and he's now the seventh generation to train animals.
He has a special relationship with the elephants.
“They are like my family, I grew up with them,” Rene said. “They are like my brothers and sisters.”
While many criticize the elephants’ quality of living, Rene is quick to dispel them.
“People don’t know really how the elephants are treated,” he explained. "They are happy, they have their mud bath, they have everything they need.
When he teaches the elephants tricks, he insists that he uses only positive reinforcement, including treats for doing a maneuver correctly.
"I think that’s the best way to do it, and should be the only way to do it,” Rene explained. “Elephants are really smart beings and they learn really fast.”
He said the key is choosing the right circus to participate in, and making sure they have grassy, open space to roam free.
“They are loose all day and night," he said. "We don’t need to tie them to anything. Every circus who hires elephants or animals from us know that they can’t hire them if they can’t give good treatment."
The elephants get daily showers and on show days, Rene makes sure their time under the tent is as short as possible.
“I have like a really close relationship with them and also think that’s what allowed me to do the stunts that I do,” Rene said.
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