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Ringling: From Exploiter to Caretaker?

March 16, 2015 by Leave a Comment


When Ringling Bros. announced plans to eliminate its elephant act in 2018, the company stated it would retire the traveling herd to its Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida.

Ringling's "Conservation Center"

Animals are trained to perform tricks at a “conservation” center?

To the general public, the center sounds like an idyllic home for the elephants because “conservation” conjures up images of freedom, safety and care. But, for several reasons, Ringling’s facility is the wrong place to retire these elephants:

The “Conservation” Center is the training facility where Ringling “breaks” baby elephants. When babies destined for the circus are born at the center, Ringling trainers kidnap them from their mothers, chain them for up to 22 hours a day and beat them with weapons until they perform circus tricks on command. Ringling is therefore not retiring the elephants to a loving home; they are returning them to the people who broke them and stripped them of everything that makes life worth living. To the elephants, who have very long memories, the Conservation Center is a place that signifies pain, anguish, deprivation, domination, brutality and terror.

Ringling trainers tie down the baby elephants and  assault them with weapons to break them

Ringling trainers tie down baby elephants and assault them with weapons to break them

Conservation Center employees carry bullhooks, weapons to control the elephants’ behavior. In its own promotional video spinning its training and breeding facility into a “conservation” center, Ringling employees can be seen carrying bullhooks. How can living in constant fear of assault and being surrounded by people who terrorized them constitute a humane retirement?

Employees use bullhooks at Ringling Conservation Center

Employees carry elephant weapons at Ringling’s Center For Elephant Conservation

The Conservation Center is entirely inadequate. Ringling’s facility is closed to the public, and that is probably because the company doesn’t want visitors to see babies being broken and elephants living in small enclosures, often chained on two legs in a concrete barn.

Ringling Training Center.2jpg

Ringling’s facility is not – and can never be – a sanctuary for the elephants who were abused there

One woman who did manage to see the center posted this video, which shows an elephant swaying in her enclosure — a sign of boredom, frustration and/or grief.

When Ringling stops training elephants for the circus, the company will assuredly find ways to continue exploiting them for profit at its conservation center (after expanding the enclosures) – perhaps through selling tickets for visitors to view them in a zoo-like setting and/or to take elephant rides.

Ringling has always treated its animals like commodities. In fact, they plan to continue forcing the elephants to travel in box cars and perform in circuses until 2018. And they intend to continue using other wild animals in the circus indefinitely. The public should therefore have no reason to believe that, three years from now, Ringling’s owners will suddenly put the elephants’ interests ahead of their own.

In the wild, elephants don't form "conga lines."

In the wild, elephants don’t balance on stools and form “conga lines”

The elephants should be relocated to an accredited sanctuary and placed in the hands of caregivers, not trainers. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee has stated it would welcome the Ringling elephants onto its 2,000 acre reserve.

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee would rescue Ringling's elephants

The 2,000 acre Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee would rescue Ringling’s elephants (photo: The Elephant Sanctuary)

The fact that Ringling describes its training and breeding facility as a “conservation” center will be the subject of a future story.

Your Turn

Please sign the petition demanding that Ringling retires its elephants now — not in 2018.  Ringling’s facility is not yet equipped to accommodate more elephants, so retiring them now would mean that they could be sent to an accredited sanctuary.

Comments via Facebook Comments

  1. Melanie Barrett says:

    Give it up, Ringling. The jig is up. No one wants to give you guys their money anymore and they’re not going to pay to come see these elephants do trick or take elephants rides at your training center. Just retire the female elephants to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and retire the male elephants to the male elephant sanctuary in San Andreas, California.

  2. sarah mash says:

    I beg yo FREE the elephants, and not just MOVE them.

  3. Douglas Pereira de Castro says:

    Substituam-se os animais pelos tratadores no picadeiro.

  4. Karyn Miller says:

    Free these elephants to a real sanctuary. Need verification that elephants ate treated humanly.

  5. Pat Cuviello says:

    Where did you hear the TES would take Ringling’s elephants?

  6. Kim Breakey says:

    FINALLY our eles will be retired from Ringling Brothers 2018. It can’t come soon enough. The “Conservation” Center is the training facility where Ringling “breaks” baby elephants. BUT WE DON’T WANT THE ABUSERS TO BE THEIR CARE GIVERS. This would be terrifying for them. Elephants never forget. They must be taken to sanctuaries and have the ability to roam for the first time in their lives and bond with each other and loving handlers. Please LIKE AND SHARE far and wide. Thank you!

  7. Larry Trepel says:

    Informative piece that raises a lot of serious questions. What was originally a cause for much celebration has been revealed to be perhaps not the victory for the elephants that we envisioned. Hopefully there will be a sustained outcry and these elephants will end up residing in a true sanctuary, not the place that lies behind the name “Conservation Center”.

  8. danielle bolt says:

    All of the animals need retired now. Move forward from these barbaric rituals.

  9. Carmen Diaz says:

    Against this circus and the cruelty with the animals

  10. Pamela Barton says:

    Please retire these animals now and send them to a Sanctuary that would allow them to feel safe and somewhat free

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