A 40-year-old elephant named Baby escaped from the circus on Tuesday in Cork, Ireland.

The 2 1/2-ton Indian elephant ran away at bath time, said eyewitness Sabrina Flynn to BBC News. They were being washed and one little fellow didn't want to be washed; [s]he just got all upset and broke the barrier and ran out on to the main road. Split seconds! she said.

A bystander in a nearby apartment caught footage of the beast as it ran in the parking lot of a coffee shop in the city center. Animal handlers ran alongside, trying to steer it in the right direction. They succeeded, but it took a few minutes; the elephant made it more than 200 meters away from the circus.

Baby's keeper told BBC that the public was never at risk. Danger? You cannot say danger, because we know [she doesn't] hate people, alright? That you must understand, he said.

But some were more concerned about Baby's welfare than about public danger. [S]he doesn't look happy, said the man who recorded the video of the elephant as she made her way from the parking lot and down a main street.

He's not the only one to think so; animal rights organizations are seizing the opportunity to protest the captivity of performing animals.

Animal Rights Action Network is trying to ban circus acts featuring animals. They have plans to picket Courtney Circus, where Baby performs. Their spokesman, John Carmody, explained his stance to the Irish Examiner.

These are animals that belong in the wild but are kept in cramped vans and wagons for transportation and then made to perform ridiculous, degrading acts, he said.

Courtney Brothers spokesman Jim Conway dismissed the criticism. Apart from common decency, it would be stupidity to abuse the animals that support our livelihoods, he said.

The elephant was returned to the circus in preparation for a scheduled performance on Wednesday night, reports RTE news.