In an elephant-sized move, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus parent Feld Entertainment will phase out the iconic elephant acts by the year 2018.
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"People have had a mood or sentiment change about seeing elephants moved from town to town," Feld Chairman and CEO Kenneth Feld told the FOX Business Network. "It was a long, well- thought out decision our family made."
Feld conceded that the changing sentiments also had, as of late, been influencing local counties and cities, some of which had instituted "Anti-circus" ordinances. The local laws were making it extraordinarily difficult for Feld's company to conduct its national circus business. The issue behind many of these ordinances? Concerns about how elephants were enduring the constant travel and movement, often through major cities.
Feld denied that animal rights activists had anything to do with the decision. In fact, Ringling has prevailed in most of the cases brought against it after judges found allegations of animal mistreatment to be unfounded.
However, Feld told FOX Business that phasing out the elephant act was an emotional and important business decision. "I don't know any 145-year-old company that can survive without making changes," said Feld.
Ironically, the fact that Ringling Bros. had an elephant act and its own Center for Elephant Conservation in the first place may very well, according to Feld, end up helping to preserve the majestic beasts' survival.
"We feel that we're probably the only company that has the goal of saving an endangered species," he said.
Some 20 of Ringling's more than 40 elephants reside at the company's Center for Elephant Conservation. Famed Columbus Zoo Chairman Emeritus Jack Hanna told FOX Business he's visited the center and is amazed by what its been able to accomplish.
"It's not open to the public, but I've been there and it's incredible," Hanna told FOX Business. A total of 26 elephants have been born at the center, hence helping to boost the endangered species' numbers.
As for the show's tigers and lions, Feld told FOX Business: They're a different species and a different story. They'll be staying in the shows.