Ringling Brothers Circus Plans To Retire All Of Its Elephants By May

Ringling Bros. announced today they'll be retiring all circus elephants by May 2016, ending a tradition animal activists have long rallied against.

Feld Entertainment, which manages the circus, told the Associated Press the company is “looking at new ways of doing things.”

There are currently 11 elephants touring with the famed circus, and another 29 living on the company's 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida. Two more are on so-called “breeding loans” to zoos.

All of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's elephants will be retired to the outdoor property by May, a full year and a half ahead of schedule. Initially, the circus elephants were to continue touring until 2018.

According to Alana Feld of Feld Entertainment, each elephant costs approximately $65,000 per year to care for. In addition, many cities around the country have banned the use of elephants in circus acts in response to pressure from animal-rights organizations like PETA and the Humane Society.

Last year, PETA described the circus' treatment of the giant mammals as cruel and called for the elephants' early retirement. The group argued,

Many of the elephants are painfully arthritic, and may have tuberculosis, so their retirement day needs to come now. Three years is too long for a mother elephant separated from her calf, too long for a baby elephant beaten with the sharp fireplace poker-like weapon called [a] billhook that Ringling handlers use routinely, too long for an animal who roams up to 30 miles a day in the wild to be kept in shackles.

Unfortunately, though the beautiful animals will be living at the Center for Elephant Conservation, they will not be entirely free. Alana Feld says they'll be using the creatures for cancer research, though she did not specify exactly how -- or for how long -- the animals will be used.

Here's hoping it's a better life than the circus life.

Citations: Ringling Bros Circus Will Retire All Elephants By This May (Gothamist), Ringling Ending Elephant Acts Over A Year Early (New York Post)