Fifteen years ago, a circus came to town. At the beginning of April 2006, I could see them setting up in South Park from my apartment window in the Docks, so I wandered over for a look. A pair of elephants, as well as a hippopotamus, were the main attraction for anyone strolling through the park. On the evening I was there, there was a constant flow of people, including myself, feeding handfuls of grass to the elephants.
As you can see, the animals were well fenced off by a large barrier. Er..no. The elephants actually were fenced off from the public by a piece of string. Anyone could stroll up, clutching a fistful of grass feed it to the elephants. It wasn’t much more secure for the hippo.
I can’t remember if the ‘barrier’ around the hippo was an electric fence or just more string. Even an electrified wire wouldn’t have been much use if the hippo got annoyed (and hippos are not pleasant company when they are annoyed). I grew up on a farm, and the first time calves were let out into meadow every year, they all ran straight through the electric fence in their paddock. So I didn’t put much store in the fence. The circus also had a rhino but it was kept in a gated enclosure. In any case, none of the animals ran amok, and anyone who went for a wander about the circus site when they were setting up, got to see some very large animals up close.
Circues aren’t allowed to keep wild animals anymore – it was outlawed three years ago. And given the litigous nature of Irish society, I suspect that the animal oversight became a bit more strict in recent years. But, in the last full year of the Celtic Tiger madness, a little bit of the Serengeti and South Asia came to South Park in Galway – seperated by just a piece of string.