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The move comes amid increasing scrutiny on circus elephant acts with local governments passing “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” ordinances in response to concerns over animal cruelty.
The company announced in March that it would retire the full herd to the center by 2018. But once officials began planning details, they realized “we could actually do this a lot sooner” because building the needed enclosures and spaces didn’t take as long as they originally thought, said Alana Feld, Ringling’s executive vice president and show producer.
Animal rights activists have long alleged that circuses have mistreated elephants.
In 2014, Feld Entertainment won $25.2 million in settlements from a number of animal-rights groups, including the Humane Societ y of the United States, ending a 14-year legal battle over allegations that Ringling circus employees mistreated elephants.
Elephants have been a symbol of the Ringling circus for decades. P.T. Barnum brought an Asian elephant named Jumbo to America in 1882.
She said the retired elephants at the CEC will also be part of cancer research.
Cancer is much less common in elephants than in humans, even though the big animals’ bodies have many more cells. That’s a paradox known among scientists, and now researchers think they may have an explanation — one they say might someday lead to new ways to protect people from cancer.
Compared with just one copy in humans, elephants’ cells contain 20 copies of a major cancer-suppressing gene, two teams of scientists reported in October. The gene helps damaged cells repair themselves or self-destruct when exposed to cancer-causing substances.
The findings aren’t proof that those extra p53 genes make elephants cancer-resistant, but if future research confirms it, scientists could try to develop drugs for humans that would mimic the effect.
I still will miss my elephants at the circus though
The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, is the nation's largest natural-habitat refuge developed specifically to meet the needs of endangered elephants. It is a non-profit organization, licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and accredited by the Association of Sanctuaries, designed specifically for old, sick or needy elephants who have been retired from zoos and circuses. Utilizing more than 2700 acres, it provides three separate and protected, natural-habitat environments for Asian and African elephants. Our residents are not required to perform or entertain for the public; instead, they are encouraged to live like elephants.