In the wake of growing concerns raised by animal rights activists and an increasing number of bans across the country, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will officially bring an end to its touring elephants act nearly two years earlier than initially expected, the Associated Press reports. "They'll be joining the rest of the herd," Alana Feld, executive vice president and show producer for Ringling, says. "We're looking at a lot of new ways of doing things."
Ringling will retire the tour's remaining 11 elephants in May of this year, promptly relocating them to the Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida. 29 other elephants have already been moved to this presumably laid-back locale, with two others currently on "breeding loans" to nearby zoos.
In March of last year, Ringling announced plans to slowly phase out the elephant portion of its live show by 2018. However, according to AP's report, the company realized they could move the retirement process along with much greater speed once plans were officially underway. Though a life of leisure after a potentially brutal experience as a stage performer would certainly be something these elephants have more than earned, they will also now be instrumental in cancer research.
"There's so much to be learned from their DNA," Feld says, adding that cancer is "much less common" in elephants than in humans. Though nothing has been proven, researchers believe that elephants may one day hold the key to successfully protecting humans from developing various forms of cancer in the future.
Be free, elephants. Florida is nice this time of year.