An elephant in an Estonian traveling circus died in the Narva river on Friday prompting speculation that the animal's natural death could have been sped up by mistreatment.
Trainers had taken the 47-year-old female Indian elephant for a swim in the Narva river. Locals demanded that the elephant be taken away from the public riverside, but the owners refused, eliciting a phone call to the police. Soon after, the animal appeared sluggish and fell on its side, dying in the river. A veterinarian discerned heart failure as the cause of death, ETV reported.
Animal rights activists had previously held a protest when the circus tour was in Tallinn, claiming the elephant had been punched. Tallinn Zoo director Mati Kaal told Delfi the animal had appeared old and weary. He said the average life expectancy for elephants is 60 years.
The head of the circus, Lauri Viikna, denied claims of ill-treatment.
The Väike-Maarja animal waste processing center has refused to take the dead elephant, which is currently being kept in Narva as owners seek a means to discard it.