The call to circus animal trainer Lancelot Ramos caught him at what I would think was a time to totally ignore his cell phone.
But he answered, and we talked for several minutes about an animal rights group’s suspicions about what happened days before during a Sarasota circus performance at Showfolks.
Only then did Ramos say he wanted my fax number but couldn’t write it down because, well, he was in an enclosure working with several tigers, training for a performance.
“Can you text me the fax number?” he asked.
Sure thing, Lance. And take your time. I’ll call back.
Ramos, also known as Lancelot Kollmann, loves the spotlight but not the one he is getting into again now. A member of a long-time circus family, Ramos has had lots of trouble with federal animal welfare investigators.
Some of the problems stem from incidents there at his compound near Wimauma, about half an hour north of Sarasota County. His license to do animal shows was revoked in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, after the USDA blamed Ramos for the death of some big cats, and for neglecting an emaciated elephant named Ned.
Ramos says he has documents that show he can perform now, something that the USDA disputed on Friday. Ramos offered to fax documents, but they have not arrived yet.
The elephant died in 2009, after the USDA seized it and new custodians were unable to nurse it back to health.
Ramos says that elephant neglect thing was a bum rap, and that, like the USDA’s caretakers, he had simply tried and failed to care for an elephant that was a picky eater with a bad stomach.
But the animal rights group PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — said that elephant’s problem was a life of stressful mistreatment as a circus performer. And now PETA is all over Ramos again, for what the organization insists was a flagrantly illegal tiger performance in Sarasota on Dec. 8, at a nonprofit circus-community venue called “Showfolks.”
Ramos’s act at the “45th Annual Showfolks Circus” featured him working with 14 white tigers. PETA says an unimpressed audience member reported afterward that Ramos mistreated the tigers.
Actually, the alleged whistleblower “said he beat the crap out of them,” according to Carney Anne Chester, a PETA lawyer. Ramos told me that’s just not so, and that he is sure he knows who made the report, though PETA won’t tell.
It was a jealous retired animal trainer in Sarasota who has been trashing him to circus owners, Ramos said. She was never as good as he is and is jealous and wants to keep his act off the market, he says.
“Our industry has always been that way,” Ramos said. “Back in her day she worked some tigers but she’s never been much.”
Another animal trainer, Tammy Wallenda — of a circus family far more known for high-wire acts — said she watched the same show and saw no such abuse.
“He was very patient,” she said, even when part of the act did not go as hoped. She agreed it was a false report from another big cat trainer, and that it was an example of bitter jealousy in the industry.
Ramos said one female tiger “was a little nervous” during the Showfolks performance, and had balked at jumping over other tigers on cue, but he said he did nothing wrong and that overall the performance went well.
PETA, by the way, is offering a “$1,000 REWARD FOR VIDEO OF CIRCUS TRAINER BEATING TIGERS,” says the headline on a press release.
The reward goes only if the video leads to a successful enforcement action against Ramos.