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Great news for elephants! Ringling Bros., the circus company, announced that it would retire its elephants by May 2016. That’s two years earlier than originally planned! Ringling announced in March of 2015 that they would phase out their elephant acts over the next three years, due to growing public concern and media attention regarding how the circus elephants are treated, but it looks like the change will come sooner than expected and that’s good news for everyone, especially the elephants.

Ringling Bros. has been under criticism from a host of animal welfare groups for the way it captures, breeds, and trains elephants. It is estimated that 50 percent of Asian elephants owned by the circus were captured from the wild, and at least 30 elephants have died in the circus since 1992. Further, though the circus has always called its elephant program a “conservation” effort, not one of the circus’s elephants will ever be fit to be released into the wild.

Whistleblowers such as former Ringling Bros. trainer, Sam Haddock have also come forward, detailing the deprivation, pain, and negative reinforcement used to train baby elephants, who are often taken from their mothers as early as 18 to 22 months of age. Wild elephants often live with their mothers until well into their adolescence, and female elephants stay with them for life. After experiencing the trauma of this separation, their lives are full of bull hooks, electric cattle prods, ropes and even fireplace pokers, which force them into unnatural positions and balances.

More than six American cities have banned the use of exotic animals in circuses including Los Angeles and Huntington Beach. Also, about a dozen countries have also eliminated or put in place bans to end these cruel acts. While public pressure has been mounting for circuses to end their animal acts, Ringling Bros. had been one of the biggest defenders of this kind of archaic animal exploitation. However, the latest news signals that even one of the most tough-minded and hardened companies that use animals now recognize that the world is changing, and it had to adapt. We hope that with more public pressure, Ringling Bros. will move toward ending all of its animal acts and retire them to sanctuaries where they can live free from harm.

Ringling Bros CEO Kenneth Feld said that the 11 elephants currently used by the traveling circus, would join its parent company’s Florida Center for Elephant Conservation, where Ringling currently keeps its other 29 elephants (two others are on breeding loans to zoos). He said that the 11 elephants will also be part of cancer research.

The elimination of elephant acts is a positive step, but we hope that Ringling, will not use the elephants in their facility as just another way to profit from or exploit them, and instead allow them to live out their lives in safety. We anticipate that with more public pressure, Ringling Bros. will move toward ending all of its animal acts.

To help the plight of other animals mistreated by the circus, you can start by boycotting circuses or other establishments that can’t provide adequate care to exotic or endangered animals. Another way to help is to spread the word. Share this article and encourage your friends to boycott circuses that use and exploit animals!