An elephant escaped from a circus and ran around the car park of a busy Irish shopping centre before bursting through a barrier and charging onto the road.

The 2.5 tonne elephant, named Baby, was eventually re-captured by her panic-stricken handlers.

The circus was visiting the town of Blackpool in Cork when the incident happened.

Eyewitnesses say that the 40-year-old female Indian elephant was about to be showered down when she made a bolt for it.

Speaking in the Irish Times, Courtney Brothers Circus spokesman Jim Conway said: "We had the elephants out to wash them down in the warm weather. Now that we know how she will react, we will approach hosing her down in a different way and get her used to it slowly."

Video footage has prompted calls for a ban on the use of elephants in circuses from animal rights groups, and a picket the circus is being planned.

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of Animal Defenders International told AOL Travel:

"This is a prime example as to why wild animals should be banned from circuses, as it clearly demonstrates how public safety, and that of the animals, can so easily be compromised.

"Fortunately no one was harmed this time, but the situation could have so easily been very different. The keepers had clearly lost control of the elephant.

"It is time to ban the use of wild animals in circuses, in the interests of animal welfare and public safety. This serious safety breach provides the Government with further firm evidence of the need to press ahead with an outright ban, rather than a system of licensing."

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