40 Ringling Bros. circus elephants officially retire at sanctuary

Posted at 10:34 AM, May 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-11 10:34:26-04

POLK CITY, Fl. – The fleet of Ringling Brother’s 40 circus elephants have officially retired and made it home to their sanctuary; where they were greeted with a homecoming brunch.

After decades of controversy, lawsuits, and protests, the elephants performed their final show in Rhode Island, on May 1. After a 145-year run as circus performers, the Asian elephants will continue to live out their lives on 200 acres of private conservation land in Polk City.

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Animal trainer Ryan Henning called the last show bittersweet. Yet, growing concern over the animals’ welfare made it impossible for Ringling Brothers and FELD to keep the giant elephants in the show.

Several cities banned the circus from town, because of public uproar over the show’s use of the endangered animals.

The elephants’ retirement is happening at least 18 months earlier than the circus originally announced.

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Henning says that's because of restrictions from city leaders in the areas where the show performed banning the use of bull hooks and heavy batons, which they use to control the elephants.

Without those tools, getting elephants to perform is pretty much impossible, he said, and tack that onto the cost of transporting 11 animals across the country that weigh in at 37 tons and the show was losing money.

Now a total 40 elephants will live out their days in Polk City, the largest Asian elephant herd in the Western Hemisphere.

The conservation center is currently not open to visitors.