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Circus owner guilty in sale of 2 elephants

  |   Feb. 23, 2011 at 8:25 PM
BEAUMONT, Texas, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- The owner of a circus and a buyer have pleaded guilty in Texas in the sale of two Asian elephants, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The U.S. Justice Department said in a release Cole Brothers Circus owner John Pugh, Wilbur Davenport, who was the buyer, and the circus business entered plea agreements Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Beaumont, Texas, to violations of the Endangered Species Act.

Prosecutors said Davenport approached Pugh in 2005 about the purchase of Tina and Jewel, the elephants owned by the circus, and the men executed a lease and sale agreement for $150,000 without obtaining a permit required because Asian elephants are endangered.

Pugh and Davenport were sentenced to three years of probation and 100 hours of community service for each year of probation. Pugh also was fined $4,000 and ordered to pay $1,200 to an organization or organizations working for the conservation or rehabilitation of Asian elephants. Davenport was fined $5,200. Cole Brothers Circus was sentenced to four years of probation and a $150,000 fine.

The U.S. Agriculture Department seized Jewel from Davenport, who then abandoned Tina to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The two elephants were transported together to the San Diego Zoo.

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