Some of the factors that led Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to its elephant decision.
Q: How many elephants does Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, have?
A: The company owns 43 elephants; 29 already live at its 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in Central Florida. Thirteen will continue to tour with the circus before retiring to the center by 2018. One elephant is on a breeding loan to the Fort Worth Zoo. The company’s Asian elephant herd is the largest in North America.
Q: Why is Feld removing the elephants from the circus?
A: Executives say it’s because of growing public concern about how the animals are treated. Kenneth Feld, the company’s president, says the animals are not mistreated or abused. But he said certain cities and counties have passed “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” ordinances. The company’s three shows visit 115 cities throughout the year, and Feld said it’s expensive to fight legislation in each jurisdiction.
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Q: Why do animal-rights activists oppose elephants in circuses?
A: Activists say the elephants are cruelly punished by trainers and handlers who use sharp bullhooks to get the pachyderms to perform tricks and chain their legs to control them. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also claims that performing elephants suffer from arthritis and that many circus elephant mothers are separated from their calves too soon. Feld officials deny all these claims.
Q: What will happen to the circus elephants by 2018?
A: All will be relocated to the Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk City, Fla., where they will live out their days. Feld says it costs about $65,000 a year to maintain an elephant. Initially the center will be open only to scientists, researchers and others studying the Asian elephant. Eventually, Feld “hopes it expands to something the public will be able to see.”
Q: What will Ringling replace the elephants with in the circus show?
A: Ringling will still use some animals in shows, including camels, tigers, dogs and goats. Also, the circus is expected to draw on other Feld-owned talent, including monster-truck shows, motocross and the International Hot Rod Association.