Updated at 20:11,29-10-2020

Disturbing picture of 'distressed' hippos forced to perform in freezing conditions for Eastern European crowd


A trio of 'distressed' hippos are being forced to entertain audiences in Eastern Europe, dancing the conga and climbing ladders.

The three seven-year-old females are top billing at a new show put on by the Belarusian State Circus in the former Soviet republic's capital, Minsk.

Minsk's sub-zero temperatures are a far cry from the warm rivers of the hippo's native Africa.

The circus' publicity shamelessly boasts of its new Hippo Show, which opened last night and is due to run for almost three months.

It starts with the trio - Zlatyi, Yana and Aida - being paraded around the ring to loud techno music under the bright lights of the circus tent before being made to clamber on to stools where their trainers, Ludmila and Tofig Akhundov, bounce huge inflatable balls from their heads.

Disturbing picture of 'distressed' hippos forced to perform in freezing conditions for Eastern European crowd

Brazen: the circus' publicity for the Hippo Show, which opened last night

Later on two of the creatures are forced to lie down and the third - weighing over a ton - is instructed to climb over them.

They are also made to trot, build pyramids, jump over one another and waltz.

Mr Akhundov told journalists this week that working with hippos demanded great efforts because they are willful and lazy.

They can show a real spirit of stubbornness, he said.

But he maintained the hippos 'feel good' in the Minsk circus and are well fed.

He said he was 'an absolute pioneer' in working with the creatures.

A spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals told the Daily Express that animals are often mistreated in circuses and find performing for humans a distressing experience.

'Hippos, along with other luckless wild animals who are chained, caged, whipped and intimidated by the circus industry, are deeply distressed when they perform.

'In the 21st century, with all the countless ways we have to amuse ourselves, there is absolutely no excuse for these shows to be taking place.'

But according to the Public Association for Animal Protection in Belarus, the government in Minsk has yet to introduce animal cruelty laws.

The show also features macaques, baboons horses and dogs.