Elephants have been a key part of a traveling circus, but they are now being phased out of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey and will lumber into an early retirement.
After being part of the troupe for 145 years, six elephants will take their final bow in Georgia when the greatest show on earth returns to Atlanta next month. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s “Circus Xtreme” will be at Philips Arena Feb. 10 – Feb. 15 and will be at Infinite Energy Center in Duluth Feb. 18- Feb. 28.
Last March, Feld Entertainment, the company that owns the circus, said it was retiring its herd of elephants in 2018, but they have since stepped up the time table.
The Asian elephants currently in the traveling circus will move to a conservation center in Florida in May. The move will number of elephants at the center to 42, the company said in press release.
The cost of caring for the 11 touring elephants is about $65,000 a year, and Feld Entertainment said it wants to use that money to focus on conservation and pediatric cancer research instead, according to the New York Times.
The decision to bring elephant performances to and end came after decades of claims by animal rights activists that the circus treated the giant creatures cruelly. Feld Entertainment has vehemently denied those accusations, and according to the New York Times, Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, said the decision was driven by economics, not complaints, as more cities placed restrictions on housing, restraining and transporting the animals.
The company said the elephants’ move to conservation center will allow the company to focus on its Asian elephant conservation program and the pediatric cancer research partnership with Dr. Joshua Schiffman of Primary Children’s Hospital and The Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City.
Despite their big size, elephants rarely get cancer. Dr. Schiffman and a team of researchers are studying why there is such a low incidence of cancer in elephants, what makes this cancer resistance possible in elephants and not in humans, and how these findings may one day lead to new treatments for pediatric cancers.