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Circus elephant shot by assailant returns to ring as mystery lingers

Carol the elephant, who has recovered from being shot in 2013, will return to the scene of the crime Thursday night
Carol the elephant, who has recovered from being shot in 2013, will return to the scene of the crime Thursday night when she performs for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo, Miss.

But there’s an elephant in the room: No one knows who shot her.

The Greatest Show on Earth has long mystified children, but now it’s the circus and police detectives who are perplexed. A small scar on Carol’s right shoulder is the only visible sign that she was shot. Veterinarian Dr. Danielle Graham said she’s fully recovered and “her health today is 100 percent.”

So far, a $33,750 dollar reward has produced no tips to help police identify who shot the 40-year-old, 7,535-pound pachyderm. Witnesses heard the gunshot around 2 a.m. on April 9, then saw a white SUV speed away from the parking lot. Tupelo Police Lt. Jerry Davis said he’s frustrated, but is not giving up hope he will eventually make an arrest. “The case is still being investigated," he told NBC News. "Detectives are still working on it; we just do not have any new information to follow up on at this time.”

She is ready to go! Carol stands front and center with TODAY's Kerry Sanders.
Before this happened, Carol and the other elephants were kept in the parking lot, in fenced-in pens when they were not performing.

But security has heightened. For the past year, the circus has parked its semi-trucks in a ring surrounding the animals. The design blocks the view and any other assailants from the street. This week, Tupelo Police told NBC News they will increase patrols at the arena while the circus is in town.

Cathy Carden, Carol’s owner and trainer, said neither she nor Carol are nervous about returning to Tupelo. “I’m excited to get there and see everybody and show everybody in Tupelo that Carol is great,” she said.

Cathy said Carol likely will not remember the shooting. “She doesn’t understand that somebody tried to maliciously hurt her; she doesn’t understand that. She just had a little boo-boo; we fixed it right away.”

But Cathy still remembers. “They intentionally tried to harm Carol, kill Carol, but they could have killed anyone of us. We were all in R.Vs. We were parked in my R.V. with my family, my two little boys and my husband. “

A year later, Lt. Davis, who notes elephants are protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act, said he’s hoping for that one tip that may lead to an arrest.

“If you’ve heard anybody saying anything about this, you know it might not be anything that big, you might not think it’s that big, but it could be very helpful to us.”
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