Two elephants at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, have very sophisticated tastes in music. Violinist Eleanor Bartsch was visiting the museum when she decided to go outside and warmup for her Bach Concerto for Two Violins with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.
Bartsch went just outside the enclosure for Kelly and Viola, 44 and 45-year-old elephants who have lived together their entire lives, and played a little Bach. The elephants responded by dancing to the music.
The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra describes Eleanor as follows:
“Violinist and Minnesota native Eleanor Bartsch has a diverse repertoire that ranges from baroque music to that of the 21st century. A member of both the Madison Symphony and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestras, Ms. Bartsch is also an active chamber musician. In Madison, she performs regularly with the Madison Bach Musicians, Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble, and UW Contemporary Ensemble, among others.”
Sadly for Eleanor, not everyone is buying into her account that the elephants loved her music. The New York Daily News reports that many animal rights groups and activists, such as PETA, are claiming the swaying is not a result of the music, but rather, distressed animals. Eleanor has been accused in the comments on her video on taking advantage of the captive animals all for the sake of a viral video, but Eleanor responds by saying,
“I would like to think it’s because they were enjoying the music,” she said. “Maybe they were happy to have someone perform for them for a change.”
Conversely, PETA says,
“Elephants such as Viola and Kelly are kept chained almost constantly when they’re not performing for the circus, live in fear of being stabbed with bullhooks, and are denied everything that’s natural and important to them—and many of them eventually develop this neurotic behavior.”
What do you think? Are the elephants enjoying the violin music or is there a deeper psychological issue surrounding the elephant’s behavior?