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Elephants at Staples -- but not for Jackson memorial

July 7, 2009 |  6:22 am


Early this morning, as a group of African elephants finished its trek to Staples Center, more and more bystanders, including police and media, gathered to take a gander at the majestic animals.

The elephant walk from a train stop in downtown L.A. off of 25th and Alameda to an animal enclosure at Staples Center was part of preparations for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, which starts Wednesday evening.

Ryan Henning, a handler and presenter with the circus,  said the circus' routine hadn't been greatly affected by the Michael Jackson memorial. The crew will just have to adjust to an abbreviated schedule. Instead of loading equipment this morning as previously planned, that was pushed to this afternoon at 4 and throughout the evening. The elephant-walk route also changed from the front of Staples Center to the back to avoid the media frenzy.

Once the journey was competed, 10 elephants (Angelica, 12, baby elephant of the crew, was too young to make the three-mile trek) stood in a straight line for a couple minutes then headed to a tented area, where they would remain until the show commences Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The L.A. trek was nothing for the elephants compared to ones made in other cities, such as New York, where the distance is more than six miles. Every venue is different, said Henning.

"The exercise is good for them," he said.

But the elephants won't be bored at the tent just outside the center, Henning said.

Over the next 24 hours, the elephants, which range in age from 12 to 52, will get squeaky clean with a bath from handlers, receive a massive supply of food and socialize with one another using their trunks.

The all-female group is also fond of playing with tires, putting their trunks inside them, "kind of like a doughnut on a baseball bat," Henning said. "They are very playful animals."

-- Nicole Santa Cruz in downtown Los Angeles

Photo: Head Clown Tweedy, of Scottland (right) helps Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Baily's unload about a dozen elephants from at the train tracks of 25th and Alameda. Credit: Jake Stevens/Los Angeles Times