The Greatest Cleanup on Earth: Circus Elephants Help Out in Joplin

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Because they could no longer perform as scheduled, a circus brought their trained elephants to help clean up Joplin, Mo. after last week’s tornado.

“We were scheduled to play here,” one circus employee told CBS. “The arena we were playing in is now the hospital.” Instead of traveling to their next destination, the Piccadilly Circus decided to put their strongest staff to use. “It’s either take the day off or give a hand to the people who really need it,” the circus employee said.

(PHOTOS: President Obama visits tornado-ravaged Joplin)

Because the elephants have brute force strong enough to pull cars, they can be a valuable asset in the relief effort. Attached to chains, the animals help drag debris, slowly clearing the devastated area.

But this unique relief effort has met controversy from some residents. “It’s sad that they would put an animal through it,” one resident said. Another told CBS, “I think it’s dangerous for the people standing so near the elephant.” Others, however, appreciate the gesture. “They were here to help, their heart’s in the right place,” one man said. (via CBS)

(PHOTOS: Signs from Joplin)