After 145 years of The Greatest Show On Earth, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus have decided to remove Asian elephants from their performances. Thirteen of the elephants currently performing and traveling will be relocated to the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida by 2018, the Feld Family, of Feld Entertainment, said in their announcement.
“This is the most significant change we have made since we founded the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in 1995. When we did so, we knew we would play a critical role in saving the endangered Asian elephant for future generations, given how few Asian elephants are left in the wild,” Kenneth Feld, Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, said.
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus have had 26 elephant births since it started its elephant conservation activity.
Feld added, “No other institution has done or is doing more to save this species from extinction, and that is something of which I and my family are extremely proud. This decision was not easy, but it is in the best interest of our company, our elephants and our customers.”
The Feld family had always been proud stewards of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, with the show already an institution in American culture.
“It is a legacy that we hold near and dear to our hearts, and as producers of The Greatest Show On Earth, we feel we have a responsibility to preserve the esteemed traditions that everyone expects from a Ringling Bros. performance while striving to keep the show fresh and contemporary for today’s families,” Nicole Feld and Alana Feld, producers and Executive Vice Presidents with Feld Entertainment, said in a statement.
“As the circus evolves, we can maintain our focus on elephant conservation while allowing our business to continue to meet shifting consumer preferences.”
The Elephant Family, UK’s biggest funder for the endangered Asian elephant, estimated that there are roughly about 30,000 Asian elephants across countries such as India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Thailand, peninsular Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Laos and the southern tip of China. The organization said there are no standard census techniques that can produce the exact population count of Asian elephants. It said the number of Asian elephants that remained unaccounted for in the wild could be anywhere between 20,000-60,000.
Asian elephants can live for up to 55-70 years in the wild, but only one in five may make it to this age. Many as half of the Asian elephant’s population die before turning 15, most of them falling victim to illegal wildlife trading and poaching.