ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending its elephant acts a year and a half early and will retire all of its touring elephants in May, amid concerns that circuses have mistreated the animals.
The circus’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, told The Associated Press exclusively that all of the iconic elephants will be permanently retired to the company’s Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida. There are 11 elephants on tour with the circus.
“They’ll be joining the rest of the herd,” said Alana Feld, Ringling’s executive vice-president and show producer, who is also part of the family that owns Feld Entertainment. Feld owns the largest herd of Asian elephants in North America.
Last year, Feld Entertainment announced that the elephants would be phased out and eventually retired by 2018. Once the company began planning, it realized it could retire the elephants a lot sooner, Feld said.
Elephant acts have been showcased by Ringling for more than a century.
But because so many cities and counties have passed “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” ordinances, it became difficult to organize tours of three travelling circuses to 115 cities each year, Feld Entertainment CEO Kenneth Feld said last year.
Animal rights activists have long alleged that circuses have mistreated elephants.
In 2014, Feld Entertainment won $25.2 million in settlements from a number of animal-rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, ending a 14-year legal battle over allegations that Ringling circus employees mistreated elephants.