Ringling Elephants Retiring Early

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is retiring its circus elephants early. Instead of waiting the planned year and a half to finally take all performing elephants out from under the big top, circus owners will retire all of its remaining touring elephants in May.

The Ringling Bros. made the decision to retire its elephants early primarily due to the passage of “anti-circus” and elephant-related ordinances by state and local governments around the world. The laws and ordinances were enacted due to animal cruelty concerns over the course of the past several years.

Feld Entertainment, the parent company of the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, told the media that the retiring elephants will be sent to its Center for Elephant Conservation facility. The Polk City, Florida, center encompasses about 200 acres. The facility is located near Orlando in the central region of the state. Today, there is a total of 11 Ringling elephants still on tour with the circus, CNN reports.

Feld Entertainment currently owns the largest herd of Asian elephants in North America, MSN reports. The herd includes 29 elephants already retired to the Florida conservation facility, two elephants on loan to zoos for breeding purposes, and the 11 still performing at the Ringling Bros. circus. P.T. Barnum bought the first Asian elephant for the circus, an animal named Jumbo, in 1882.

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Ringling Brothers announced a plan to phase out the use of elephants by 2018. The massive creatures have been a part of the “Greatest Show on Earth” for more than a century. Feld Entertainment Executive Vice President Alana Feld previously told the media that the decision to retire all of its elephants reflected “somewhat of a mood shift” among circus patrons. Feld noted that many folks are not “comfortable” with the idea of touring elephants due to their rigid confinement and other animal cruelty-related issues associated with their quality of life.

Feld also told the media that it costs the company about $65,000 to care for each elephant on an annual basis. In preparation for the rapidly shortened phasing out plan, Ringling Bros. has begun building new structures to house the retirement elephants at the Florida conservation facility.

Fighting the “anti-elephant” and “anti-circus” ordinances in each area, the Ringling Brothers Circus tour has become quite time-consuming and expensive, according to Feld officials. The company consists of three traveling circuses, which perform shows at about 115 cities annually.

In both Oakland and Los Angeles, the city has barred the use of bullhooks by elephant trainers. In Asheville, North Carolina, all types of exotic and wild animals have been banned from performing at the largest convention facility in the region, the 7,600-seat U.S. Cellular Center.

It appears that the Ringling elephants will be only partially retired once they make the move to Florida. According to Feld, the circus touring elephants will soon be used in cancer research. Alana Feld said that because cancer is far less common in elephants as it is in humans, even though there is an enormous body size difference, many scientists believe that using the animals for cancer research will lead to cancer discoveries that can protect humans.

Last fall, a group of scientists revealed that elephant cells possess 20 copies of the “major cancer-suppressing” gene known as the p53 gene. Human beings have just one copy of the p53 gene. The gene being researched reportedly aid the cells to repair themselves when exposed to carcinogens.

“There’s so much to be learned from their [elephants] DNA,” said University of Utah pediatric cancer specialist Dr. Joshua Schiffman.

Last year, the Ringling Bros. parent company spent $25.2 million in court settlements brought by animal rights groups that had been fighting to prove animal cruelty had taken place at the hands of circus employees for the past 14 years.

What do you think about Ringling Brothers retiring circus elephants early?

[Image via Shutterstock.com]