The “Greatest Show on Earth” will soon be entertaining audiences around the country without the help of one if its star performers. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus said Thursday that it will remove elephants from all its shows.
The elephant has been a symbol of the Ringling Bros. circus act since it began 145 years ago. However, with many people concerned about the negative effect captivity has on these highly intelligent animals, public opinion on using elephants in the circus has changed.
“There’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our customers,” said Alana Feld, Vice President of Feld Enterprises Inc., the circus’ parent company. “A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.”
A New Home
While news of the elephant’s departure may come as a surprise to those who can’t imagine the circus them, the change will not be immediate. There are still 13 elephants performing with Ringling Bros. that will remain there until 2018. Once officially retired, the elephants will be relocated to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida. Twenty-nine of its elephants are already there.
Established in 1995, the Center for Elephant Conservation focuses on safely breeding and housing the elephants. Home to the largest heard of Asian Elephants in North America, the 200-acre facility provides constant care and around 2.5 tons of hay for the elephants to eat every day.
The center also gives scientists a better opportunity to study the tusked mammals, since they can get a lot closer to the highly trained circus elephants than elephants in the wild that aren’t used to human contact.
For Kenneth Feld, owner of Feld Enterprises Inc., protecting the future of these animals is a high priority. “We’re creating the greatest resource for the preservation of the Asian elephant,” he said.