Deprived of wild animals, circus companies are finding it difficult to attract children to boost their collections and so they are struggling for survival.
Bombay Circus, established by K M Balagopal 30 years ago, had its heyday when it maintained lions, tigers, leopards, bear and other wild animals. As the Central government banned the use of wild animals for feats in circus, it surrendered all its prized possessions to the zoo authorities a decade ago.
Now it has only three elephants, six camels, seven horses, 20 dogs, 5 Australian parrots, two emu birds, two sheep and one donkey for performance.
Elephants and camels continue to attract children who make a beeline for the circus with their parents and help the show survive.
The circus companies on their part are trying to innovate to make up the loss of wild animals.
They are recruiting artistes from Russia and Africa to perform special feats and hold the interest of audience, particularly children. Bombay circus has eight artistes from Russia, said Suresh Babu, manager.
He said that the company has to maintain 300 staff members including 60 male and 40 female artistes. The total expenses come to Rs. 70,000 per day.
They make good collections for shows during Oct-Feb but get poor returns during summer and rainy seasons. Though cable television posed serious threat to other forms of entertainment, circus with its live performance still holds attraction for children, who remain their chief patrons, he said.
As they move from place to place for performance, they face peculiar problems.
In Ongole, they face shortage of water. As the groundwater is saline, they had to buy potable water from municipality by paying Rs. 500 per tanker. It is okay for drinking purposes. But elephants face a problem. For elephants, bathing is more important than eating. They relish bath two or three times a day.
But faced with shortage, they are getting bath only once a day in Ongole which made them irritable.
“As we give them bath only once a day, they keep sprinkling mud to keep their bodies cool.
But the workers had to clean them using more water to keep them tidy during performance”, he complained.