Stars of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus are trading their hula hoops and circus tricks for yoga mats and deep breaths at their new retirement home in the Sunshine State.
Eleven Asian elephants completed their last show in early May and arrived at the Ringling Bros, Center for Elephant Conservation in Orlando, FL, just miles away from Disney World.
They joined 29 other retired elephants at the 200-acre retirement home. The conservation center includes open areas for caretakers to bathe and walk the elephants during the day, as well as individual pens for males and group pens for females at night.
An exercise area is also underway, which will provide a space for elephants to climb hills, weave through poles and learn “elephant yoga” from trainers.
Every day, the elephants are fed about 2.5 tons of hay and up to 800 pounds of fruits, veggies and greens. It costs the center about $65,000 each year to care for each elephant.
The elephants were scheduled to retire from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 2018; however pressure from animal rights groups as well as “anti-circus” laws in cities and counties across the country led Feld Entertainment, the company that owns the legendary circus, to move their retirement to an earlier date.
The end of elephant acts at the world-renowned circus marks an end to a 145-year tradition. Elephants were introduced into U.S. menageries in the 19th century and later, circuses.
In 1882, P.T. Barnum, founder of Barnum & Bailey (which was purchased by the Ringling Bros in 1907 and merged in 1919), brought an African elephant named Jumbo to America.
It wasn’t long before he introduced Jumbo in the circus arena, advertising Jumbo as “the world’s largest elephant.” After all, Mr. Barnum was known a well-known promoter adept at attracting crowds.
The elephants were greeted at a homecoming event with a buffet filled with their favorite treats.
Now, that’s the retirement that America’s circus stars deserve!