Russian rescuers saved two circus elephants on a Siberian highway when their wooden van caught fire amid freezing temperatures, police said Friday.
The elephants’ wooden truck caught fire on Thursday evening in Siberia’s Novosibirsk region. A petrol-powered heater in the van most likely set fire to their straw, police said, publishing photographs of the blackened vehicle.
Police, firemen and passing drivers helped rescue the elephants, their trainer said in a police video, adding that “the animals are alive and well”.
The elephants, which belong to a Polish circus, were on tour between the Siberian cities of Novokuznetsk and Omsk, police said, a distance of around 1,000 kilometres (620 miles).
Amid temperatures of minus 35 degrees Celsius (-31 Fahrenheit), the elephants “suffered a light frostbite to the tips of their ears”, a local official told the RIA Novosti news agency.
“They rubbed them with special ointment, and as far as I understand, nothing else was wrong with them.”
To warm up the animals, the trainers “mixed two cases of vodka with warm water and gave them to the elephants,” the official said.
“Probably it was a treat for them.”
The animals have temporarily been sheltered in a garage, police said.
Travelling circuses are popular attractions in Russia’s remote regions, but are poorly regulated with frequent accidents and attacks on children.