POLICE and the RSPCA have launched a joint investigation after footage surfaced of a circus worker striking an elephant with a pitch fork.
Pressure group Animal Defenders International released the shocking video of 57-year-old Asian elephant Anne's ordeal.
It was secretly filmed earlier this year in a barn in Polebrook, Northants.
Bobby's Super Circus looks after the animal and owners Bobby and Moira Roberts said they reacted with "shock and horror" to the retired elephant's abuse.
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Mrs Roberts, 72, said the worker in the footage had disappeared from the circus one night possibly to his home in Eastern Europe.
She said: "We wish we had been given the opportunity to prosecute him and hand him over to the police."
Jan Creamer, Animal Defenders International's chief executive, said: "Anne's tragic story symbolises the plight of circus animals and is a shocking indictment of the circus industry."