Heartwarming Video Shows Circus Elephants Playing In The Snow
The two animals ended up blocking the centre of Yekaterinburg after running off from their handlers, who reportedly wanted to bundle them off on a two-day, 1,440 mile trip to St Petersburg - despite having already travelled more than 10,000 miles around Siberia.
Indian elephants a, aged 45, and Roni, 50, are from the controversial Italian Togni Circus, which now tours in Russia after live animals were banned from big-top performances in Italy.
They clearly weren't bothered by the -5°C temperature, having been seen frolicking about in the freezing conditions, rolling in the snow and doing their best to stop their handlers getting them back onto their road trip.
The Siberian Times reports that the street even had to be blocked to allow the playful giants to muck about in the snow.
A spokesman for Yekaterinburg State Circus, which hosted Togni, said: "The elephants have their own character and emotions, they are very smart.
"They walked outside and got very happy from seeing the snow, the trees and the pedestrians who they took for spectators.
"Roni stayed by one of the trees while Carla walked towards a pile of snow."
Last year there was some concern over the Togni troupe's itinerary, with complaints about the 'cruelty' faced by the elephants and other animals having to be moved around in cramped trucks.
The circus has also travelled from one side of Russia to the other, hitting cities such as Kazan, Izhevsk, Nizhny Tagil, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk and Yekaterinburg.
In the world's coldest city, Yakutsk, a petition signed by tens of thousands was launched, demanding legal checks on the circus.
One campaigner said: "Some European countries like Italy have banned all animals in travelling circuses because they're cruel - but then the troupe responds by coming to Russia where the tortuous travelling distances are even bigger, the longest in the world.
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"Banning cruelty in Italy they made it worse in Russia for the same animals."
Irina Novozhilova, of animal rights group VITA, said: "In no circus conditions will be humane for one simple reason.
"Training goes hand in hand with cruelty. With elephants that means using hooks and electric shockers. Electric shockers cause mini heart attacks."
She added: "Circuses are always cruel beyond limits.
"And circuses with animals should be banned."
However, Togni's Russian art director Sergey Bondarchuk has dismissed the complaints.
"Such circuses are traditional," he said.
"We love our animals a lot, they are our family. They too love the circus, they get bored without work.
"Our animals will live and die with us, they won't survive in the wild."
Bondarchuk also said the trucks have air conditioning and heating, and that while on the road in Siberia they stop every three hours to clean and feed the animals.
He explained that travelling across the vast distances of Siberia was 'hard' but argued that the animals were 'like children' for them.
He added: "If something happens to them, we lose our jobs."
Featured Image Credit: The Siberian Times