It’s official: all the elephants from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus have retired—but to where?
Last year National Geographic toured the reservation in Polk City, Florida, where the circus’s last 11 elephants are now being relocated. They weren’t impressed.
“Ringling's spread is flat and treeless except for the bamboo and other vegetation planted in the past two decades and fed to the animals as roughage,” the magazine reported in September.
The area—called the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation—is 200 acres, but elephants were frequently penned in on an acre of sand. At night, each elephant was tethered by an ankle chain. For toys, they had fallen trees, concrete chunks, and an old tire.
“They are missing the most important experience, which is freedom in the wild,” Ed Stewart, president of the Performing Animal Welfare Society, told the publication.
Ringling Bros. sees things differently.
“Our lifetime commitment to caring for these amazing animals is unwavering,” the company’s Center for Elephant Conservation wrote on its website. “They will spend their days socializing, roaming the pastures of the vast facility, all while receiving the highest level of care from our animal care team.”
Who knows—maybe the reservation’s conditions may have improved since September. The elephants are no longer in the circus, but they still might not be exactly “free.”