ENVIRONMENT

Ringling Bros Elephants Are Officially Retired

They'll spend the rest of their lives at a sanctuary in Florida.

Elephants at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus are officially retired.

The last of the group's performing elephants made their final appearances in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island on Sunday, ending a 145-year run that was long criticized by animal rights' groups. 

They'll now join the other retired Ringling elephants at the company's Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida. 

Circus performer Tabayara Maluenda pats an elephant after leading it in the introduction for its final show for the Ringling
Circus performer Tabayara Maluenda pats an elephant after leading it in the introduction for its final show for the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

The center itself has been the subject of scrutiny. A National Geographic reporter toured the facility and described it as "flat and treeless," with some elephants spending much of their days in cages. The elephants are also chained up at night, which Ringling says is to prevent them from stealing each other's food but critics say is unnecessary.

"They are missing the most important experience, which is freedom in the wild," a spokesman for the Performing Animal Welfare Society told NatGeo. "It's like keeping a Ferrari in the garage."

Meanwhile, SeaWorld is facing continued pressure from activists to release its orcas into sanctuaries. The company said earlier that it would stop breeding orcas and focus instead of education and animal rescue. However, the remaining SeaWorld orcas will spend the rest of their lives in captivity. 

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