Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Will Retire Elephants in May

The circus's parent company is run by BU alum Kenneth Feld.

Following decades of criticism and claims of animal cruelty, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey announced last March that it would phase out the use of elephants in its world-famous circus shows by 2018.

But today, the circus’s parent company Feld Entertainment—led by Boston University alumnus Kenneth Feld—announced that the touring elephants would instead retire this May, a year and a half earlier than originally planned. They will join an existing herd at the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida.

Feld Entertainment owns the largest herd of Asian elephants in North America, and it takes $65,000 a year to care for each one, according to an exclusive report by the Associated Press.

Feld’s daughter Alana, who serves as executive vice president and show producer for Ringling, told the news agency that there are 11 elephants currently on tour with the circus. In May, they will join 29 elephants already living at the conservation center, in addition to two that are on breeding loans to zoos. The retired elephants will also participate in a pediatric cancer research project led by Dr. Joshua Schiffman from the University of Utah.

The details of a new circus show without elephant acts, which will begin in July, will be unveiled in April. Meanwhile, the last stop for “Legends,” one of two circus shows currently on tour, will take place in Worcester April 22-24.