Accessibility links

Breaking News

Showstopper: Tigers Eat Uzbek Circus Monkey. Then Things Get Really Ugly

An animal trainer at an Uzbek circus claims that it was ultimately monkey business by the boss -- and not just an unfortunate escape -- that led to tigers eating his lovable little performing simian earlier this month.

Nicknamed Redhead, the monkey slipped out of its cage at the State Circus in Tashkent on July 16 before falling victim to the big cats that were being housed in a cage in the same room.

Redhead's trainer, Azamat Khusinov, told RFE/RL that circus rules forbid keeping such animals in the same room.

But he alleged that a dispute had boiled over with acting director Rustam Majidov after Khusinov declined an invitation to perform in Russia, and Majidov first evicted the monkey and moved it into a cold garage before it was kept in the veterinarians' office alongside the tigers and a lion that Khusinov also trains. He suggested that Red's treatment was retaliation for that refusal.

Khusinov further said that while his colleagues had their own lockers, he was forced to change clothes before performances in the same room with the animals.

Khusinov has taken his accusations to the Culture Ministry, saying in a complaint that the circus director "demanded from me that I give this money [received in exchange for performances with a Russian circus] to him. I did not agree."

Majidov has denied any wrongdoing, adding in a response to RFE/RL that he would gladly allow the trainer to stage his show in Russia since it “brings income to our circus."

The tragedy of Redhead's death was compounded, he said, by the fact that the tigers are likely too dangerous to perform since they "tasted blood." Instead, he said, veterinarians had recommended that they be sent to live in Tashkent's zoo.

Khusinov countered that Majidov was simply trying to get rid of the felines and, ultimately, him.

Besides, he added, the unfortunate incident with Redhead was unlikely to change the tigers' stripes. They were already fed "live rabbits every two weeks" on the recommendation of veterinarians.

Majidov is the younger brother of the Uzbek State Circus's former director, Bakhrom Majidov, whose whereabouts have been a mystery since his indictment on embezzlement charges in connection with circus assets.