Ringling Bros and Barnum& Bailey Circus will retire all elephants by May

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Eleven elephants will move to preservation center in Florida within a few months, company tells, rather than in 2018 as originally planned

The Ringling Bros and Barnum& Bailey Circus is accelerating its phaseout of elephant acts, announcing that it will retire all of its touring elephants by May.

Feld Entertainment, mother company of the touring circus, said all of its Asian elephants will move to its elephant preservation center in Florida. Eleven elephants “that theyre” made to tour the country and perform tricks for people will be retired, bringing the herd at the center to 42.

Following growing pressure from animal welfare groups, Feld Entertainment said in March it would move all the pachyderms to the 200 -acre conservation center by 2018. But the company said it had since realise the move will not take as long as expected.

We wanted to create a deadline and work back from that and we realise there was enough barn space and pasture space for them, said Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, which oversees the largest herd of Asian elephants in North America.

Millions of people still come to the circus but there are cities like Los Angeles that have attained it impossible, or at the least impractical, to bring these animals on tour. We cant merely drop off elephants at the city restrictions.

We felt the legislation banning the elephants was totally unnecessary but we decided that wed rather spend the money on preservation rather than legal fights.

Payne said customer feedback has been divided, with many telling the company they will miss the elephants, which have been a fixture throughout the 145 -year history of Ringling Bros. No decision has been made as to whether to open up the conservation center to paying visitors. Around $65,000 will be spent per year on the upkeep of each elephant.

Last year, Los Angeles and Oakland banned the use of bullhooks by handlers. The city of Asheville, North Carolina, also banned the presence of performing elephants in its 7,600 -seat US Cellular Center.

Adam Roberts, chief executive of Born Free USA, said the decision showed that the public no longer accepts performances by wild animals.

The use of wild animals in circuses is cruel and demeaning and I believe the writing is on the wall for this practice, he said. The public craving for seeing this is clearly dwindling.

Forcing elephants to perform in multiple cities, chaining them up on long train rides, is cruel and causes premature death. This is the beginning of the end for elephants in circuses; other operators will have to follow suit.

Elizabeth Hogan, US wildlife campaign administrator at World Animal Protection, said elephants have to endure harsh therapy so they conform to instructions for circus tricks.

They go through something “ve called the” crush in order to break them and build them obey human commands, she said. Any animal that goes through that is not being treated properly.

This decision sends a very strong message not only to other circuses but also tourists who may be thinking of buying a ticket.

Hogan added, however, that the destination of the elephants wasnt ideal as the center is not an accredited sanctuary, and so would require independent oversight.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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