The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending its elephant acts a year and a half early, and will retire the animals in May.
The circus's parent company, Feld Entertainment, told The Associated Press exclusively that the iconic elephants will be permanently retired to the company's 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida. There are 11 elephants currently on tour with the circus.
In early 2015, Feld executives told the AP that growing public concern about how the animals are treated led to the decision. The circus had then said the elephants would be phased out by 2018.
STORY: Ringling Bros. eliminating elephant act
Those 11 elephants will join the rest of the herd, bringing the total to 42 elephants on the property.
Feld owns the largest herd of Asian elephants in North America. It costs about $65,000 yearly to care for each elephant, and the company had to build new structures to house the retiring elephants at the center, located in between Orlando and Tampa.
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