TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- Hours after a drive-by shooting involving a circus elephant in Tupelo, many staff members with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus said they couldn't believe what happened.
"It makes you sick to your stomach that someone would shoot any animal, much less an endangered species. It tears at your very fiber," Ringling Bros. Chair of Veterinary Care Dr. Dennis Schmitt said.
Dr. Schmitt, one of five veterinarians who cares for the organization's animals, has worked with pachyderms for decades.
He said Carol, the 39-year-old Asian elephant struck by a bullet Tuesday morning, has been alert and active since the injury.
"My estimation would be that she should be back to full recovery in six to eight weeks," Dr. Schmitt added.
When the bullet entered Carol's neck just above the shoulder, part of the bullet broke up into fragments, he said.
The Tupelo Police Department has not released what type of gun was used -- in part -- because they need the bullet to confirm it.
Dr. Schmitt said the safest course of action for Carol is allowing the bullet to work its way out of the elephant's body, meaning it could be weeks before the evidence is returned to Tupelo investigators.
That crime will likely carry federal charges against whomever is responsible, since Asian elephants are an endangered species protected by federal law.
For the time being, those who work for the traveling circus -- including Dr. Schmitt -- say they're thankful it wasn't worse.
"Fortunately it's not in an area that has any major blood vessels or nerves," Dr. Schmitt said. "[It] didn't hit any bone or anything like that. It's in an area -- if someone was going to shoot an elephant, that's the safest place."
With two elephants still on-site outside the BancorpSouth Arena in anticipation of Thursday's opening performance, though, circus management is not taking any chances now.
Dr. Schmitt said Carol will be sent back to her home in Springfield, Mo., to spend the next 6 to 8 weeks recuperating.
In addition, a spokesperson for the circus says security has been tripled to protect the remaining pachyderms, considered an integral part of any Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey show.
The reward for information leading to an arrest in this case has been upped to $21,250, with amounts from several organizations, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which contributed $5,000.