The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Baily Circus, the oldest, largest and most famous Circus in the world, has stopped using their Asian Elephants in performances and has sent them to retire in a sanctuary in central Florida. Their eleven elephants moved to the two hundred acre Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk County, near Orlando. Elephants have been an attraction at the circus for 145 years. There has been much public criticism against keeping the large animals in chains, moving them from city to city and making them perform tricks for human entertainment. To celebrate their retirement, the elephants enjoyed a buffet of their favorite foods including carrots, apples, bread and hay.
The center focuses on conservation, breeding and research, including studies to determine why elephants face a lower risk of cancer than humans despite their far greater body mass. Although audiences can no longer see the elephants do headstands at “The Greatest Show on Earth,” Ringling Bros still tours other wild animals including tigers, lions and pythons. They also have domestic animals like dogs and horses. At least 17 countries have outlawed circus acts featuring wild animals, but the practice remains largely legal in the United States. About a dozen municipalities in the US have proposed legislation that would prohibit circuses and other acts from using elephants and wild animals in performances. Hawaii is considering a law that would ban circuses from using wild animals in shows. It would be the first state in the USA to do so if and when the regulation becomes official. At least the elephants from the biggest side-show can now roam free in the Sunshine State. - Clover Welsh