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$32K reward offered in circus elephant shooting

April 12, 2013 at 8:10 AM ET

A circus elephant wounded in a drive-by shooting is expected to make a full recovery, according to her handlers who are promoting a $32,000 reward for information leading to the animal’s assailant.

Carol, an Asian elephant with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, was hit in the neck Tuesday by a single bullet shot from a passing vehicle in Tupelo, Miss.

“I heard a loud, a very loud boom. Like a bomb went off,” said the animal’s trainer, Catherine Carden, who has been with Carol since she was a teen.

“I didn't know if she was going to survive ’til morning,” she told TODAY's Kerry Sanders in a segment that aired Friday. “Your whole life flashes before your eyes.”

Had the bullet hit the elephant a few inches lower or higher and “the damage would have been incredible,” said her veterinarian, Dennis Schmitt.

“There are at least five different fragments that we can identify,” he said, looking over ultrasound images.

The elephant is now resting comfortably in Springfield, Miss., showing signs of her usual spirited self, he said. She is expected to fully recover within eight weeks.

Mississippi authorities, meanwhile, continue to look for suspects in the case.

“I believe it was fully intentional,” said Capt. Rusty Haynes of the Tupelo police department. “I think it may have been just somebody or a couple of people with too much time on their hands."

The shooter may face federal charges and up to a three-year prison term because the Asian elephant is an endangered species. Authorities hope the $32,000 will help provide incentive for someone to come forward with information.

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