BEAUMONT, Texas (CN) – The owner of Cole Brothers Circus admitted he illegally sold two endangered Asian elephants to an employee for $150,000. Circus owner John Pugh and his employee Wilbur Davenport received small fines and probation; Cole Brothers Circus was fined $150,000.
Federal prosecutors said Pugh agreed in 2005 to sell Davenport the two elephants, Tina and Jewel, for $150,000, under a 5-year lease to purchase deal. Davenport performed with the elephants through the fall of 2006 and then took the elephants to his home in Leggett, Texas, where he rented them out for parties and elephant rides.
Asian elephants are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Neither Pugh nor Davenport nor the circus had permits to buy or sell the animals.
Cole Brothers Circus performs throughout the Eastern United States.
Pugh was fined $4,000 and ordered to donate $1,200 to a group that conserves or rehabilitates Asian elephants.
Davenport was fined $5,200.
Both men were given 3 years of probation and ordered to do 100 hours of community service a year.
Cole Brothers Circus was sentenced to 4 years probation and fined $150,000.
The elephants have been sent to the San Diego Zoo.