This 20-year-old doesn’t have your average day job!
Rene Casselly Jr, who is half Belgian and half German, is an animal trainer who spends his days performing amazing stunts with five African elephants.
Growing up to 10 feet tall and weighing around of 6 tones each, African elephants are one of the world’s most dangerous animals.
But, Rene Casselly Jr has no problem taming these gigantic beasts, as he has known them for his whole life.
He is a 7th generation animal trainer and is now in his 4th year of performing with Hungary’s National Circus at Lake Balafon.
Rene says, ‘they are like my family and my pets as well. I grew up with them. I don’t know anything else, they are like my brothers and my sisters.’
‘I have a really close relationship with them and I think that’s what allows me to do the stunts that I do.’
As well as his knack for training animals, Rene Jr is also a skilled acrobat. His circus performances feature jaw-dropping stunts where Rene is flicked in the air by the elephant’s trunks and tumbles from one elephant to another.
Rene Jr says, ‘my act with the elephants is a unique act. I am the only one in the world doing the combination between tumbling and working together with elephants.’
After sharing photos and images of his act on online, Rene has received both admiration for his skill and criticism concerning the use of elephants in circuses.
Keen to defend himself, Rene explains, ‘negative reactions I think are because the people don’t know really how the elephants are treated.’
‘They are happy, they have their mud bath, they have everything they need.’
Rene Jr also insists that his elephants are only trained with food, not violence.
He says, ‘the only thing you can get elephants with is food. You need a lot of food – they love to eat!’
‘When the elephant learns what to do he likes to do it because he knows, ‘if I do this right, I get more food.’ So that’s the only way to do it.’
‘I don’t do any negative enforcement – the only thing I do is natural treatment. You can see that my elephants are happy, they are calm, they are not forced to do anything.’
‘I think that’s always the best way to do it and it should be the only way to do it.’
Elephants have been a symbol of the circus since the 19th century, but with backfire from animal welfare organisations many circuses have since stopped using elephants in their shows.
For now, Rene Jr plans to carry on his act and provide the best life he can for his five elephants.
He says, ‘we’re trying to show to the people is that animals and elephants can have a good life in the circus too.’
Watch the video above to catch a glimpse of Rene in action and to take a better look at where his elephants are kept.