In a monumental decision, the Ringling Brothers Circus has announced Thursday that they would retire their elephants from performance acts by 2018. This comes after years of pleas by animal rights activists to end the cruelty and particularly noncommittal comments from the circus about it.
For decades, elephants have always been the main attraction to the Ringling Brother Circus, but according to parent company Feld Entertainment, the attitudes of the guests to the circus have significantly changed, which brought about the decision. This change in attitude is stated to have come from the alleged rumor of mistreatment to the elephant not only during training but during the acts themselves. Feld Entertainment executives also state that due to various city ordinances concerning both elephants and circuses, it has become extremely expensive to keep up the act in the more than 115 cities that they tour.
The Ringling Brothers Circus will be slowly phasing out elephants in their show and replacing them with dancing camels (which is not any better, unfortunately) as well as a host of motor sports, daredevils and human feats. Some believe their aim to be more like their competition, the Cirque du Soleil, who rely on the skill and bravery of people instead of using wild animals in their acts.
The retired herd of elephants from the Ringling Circus will include 43 elephants in all, however only 13 elephants are currently touring. The rest of the elephants live in Central Florida at the Feld Entertainment's 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation. By 2018, they will be joined by the rest of their touring pachyderm family, but there is no word on if they will stay at the Center for Elephant Conservation or be shipped off elsewhere. As the largest herd of elephants in North America, the company spends $65,000 on each elephant per year, so it seems likely they will be slowly shipped to zoos or other facilities.