Ringling Bros. Circus elephants take final bow, ending controversial spectacle
Circus acts with wild animals remain legal throughout most of the U.S.
Performing elephants entered the arena for the matinee on their final day of shows in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Sunday.
Amid controversy, circus elephants head to retirement.
By sending these animals into retirement, the circus has ended a 145-year spectacle that delighted fans but enraged animal activists, who say the highly publicized retirement is not enough.
Bonnie, Juliette and nine other female Asian elephants retired earlier than originally planned, reflecting a shift in U.S. attitudes toward animal entertainment.
Smaller U.S. circuses still include 69 elephants.
While glad that the Ringling elephants are leaving their travelling days behind, animal activists are critical of the company's Polk City, Fla., facility that will serve as their retirement home.
"[It's] nothing more than a breeding facility, where elephants are chained for approximately 16 hours a day or more in concrete-floored barns and still beaten with bullhooks," said PETA spokeswoman Katie Arth.
The 'retirement' facility focuses on conservation, breeding and research.
A Reuters reporter who toured the camp in October saw dozens of elephants corralled in groups of twos and threes in scrub-filled areas about the size of suburban backyards that gave them enough room to walk around and included toys.
At night they stay in large barns, with their feet often chained to keep them from stealing each other's food.
Wild animal circus acts remain largely legal in the United States.
At least 17 countries have outlawed circus acts featuring wild animals, but Hawaii may be the first state to ban them and more than a dozen municipalities have enacted their own prohibitions.
Lions and tigers and pythons … oh my.
Other wild animals continue as circus headliners, including at Ringling Bros., which tours with 28 tigers, six lions, one leopard, two kangaroos and three pythons, according to Stephen Payne, a spokesman for the circus's parent company, Feld Entertainment.