The famous elephant acts that have been part of Barnum & Bailey and Ringling Bros Circus shows for more than a century now will end in this May, the circus’ parent company said on Monday, earlier than their previously announced retirement. Last March, Feld Entertainment said the 13 Asian elephants used in its traveling shows would be phased out by 2018.
The iconic elephants of both the circus shows will parade into a Rhode Island arena for their final performance on Sunday, starting with their ever ending classic feature of "The Greatest Show on Earth" to began in the "big top" circus tents 145 years ago.
The last act of the giant pachyderms would follow decades of protest by animal welfare activists claiming the methods used to train the elephants and home them are very unkind. Ringling bowed to the demands as state and local rules cited more precincts on the circus' use of exotic animals and the bull hook trainers use to manage the animals.
"It’s going to be an end of a long era and an overdue policy," said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States.
More than 10 million people are predictable to attend the Ringling events each year, according to Alana Feld, Ringling's executive vice president and show creator. Our last featuring the two touring elephant groups will take place in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and Providence, R.I. on Sunday. Ringling will live to stream the final performance in Providence on Facebook Live and Ringling.com.
There is going to be a mix of emotions around the performances. A lot of people are coming to see the elephants for the last time and it’s going to be the best performers and everyone traveling with them is a big change," said Feld.
The circus is going to retire so early with this move, and the 11 remaining Asian elephants that range in age from six- old April to 48-year old Asia are traveling together in troupes to perform their final shot.
When the curtain closes down, these elephants will take one last trip in a truck and a train to Ringling's 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida, where they will join 29 of their compatriots in the largest group of Asian elephants in the Western Hemisphere.
The former stage performers will roam there, hang out and play with a variety of toys, balls and even huge truck tires leftover from Feld Entertainment's Monster Jam events. As an additional ball, the center is building two new pools for the water-loving elephants, which already use 80 gallons of water a day for drinking and to have even more splash time.
The elephants are also getting involved in some more serious works like; the search for treatments to cure pediatric cancer. As these huge animals rarely develop cancer, the researchers still want to find out why so they are using the elephant center's to study about the cancer-fighting gene tangled in their DNA.
Ringling Brothers are planning to phase out its elephants by 2018, the company already made all the plans and prepared to move the animals, ensuring the center's services were ready to home and care the extra elephants, much sooner than probable. The cost to care each elephant withstand up to 10 feet tall, weigh up to 11,000 pounds and they eat up to 300 pounds of food a day, and this is costing them around $65,000 amounts annually.
The animal rights centers largely praised Ringling's decision to retire its elephants, again with mixed criticism, as some say the move doesn't go far as much as necessary and want the circus to eliminate other animals in its acts, including lions and tigers.
However, taking the elephants out of the shows is only the first step," said Rachel Mathews, PETA Foundation Capital Animal Law Enforcement counsel. The decision to end the use of elephants in the circus by Ringling is a tipping point in the debate over the use of animals in live entertainment," he said. "The use of wild animal acts is not only cruel, it’s outdated, and more and more customers understand that."Ringling is the big brand to give up on the use of elephants in traveling acts, and I think it will just be a matter of time before all of it ends," Pacelle said.
While the elephants are no longer going to take part in Ringling's performances, “with a tagline the show must go on”. The company is planning to launch a new production said Feld, which is unlike anything it's done before and taking audiences into space for the first time.