Ringling Could be Shutting Down their Cruel Elephant “Conservation” Center

Ringling Could be Shutting Down their Cruel Elephant “Conservation” Center

It seems like performing elephants just can’t catch a break. The controversial Ringling Bros.’ Circus stopped using elephants in May of 2016 and shut down completely a year later. Unfortunately, Ringling’s Asian elephants still live in subpar conditions according to animal rights activists.

Although the over 40 elephants no longer perform and have retired at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation, a 200-acre farm in Polk, Florida, they are still chained, prodded with bull hooks, and forced to stay on concrete floors for extended periods of time, to name a few of the abuses.

However, on Tuesday a spokesperson for PETA told the Bradenton Herald that “rumors” have been circulating the “conservation” center plans on closing. If so, the elephants may move to a 10,000-acre sanctuary.

“Elephants who have endured years of suffering and earned Ringling millions of dollars deserve better—including the opportunity for physical and mental rehabilitation, which is impossible at the [Center for Elephant Conservation],” PETA stated in a 2016 report of the center.

Keeping Elephants Enclosed in the States is a Short-term Solution

elephant waving a flag at Rigling's Center for Elephant Conservation.

Screenshot of elephant waving a sport’s banner at Ringling’s Center for Elephant Conservation.

Creating a center that focuses on using elephants for cancer research and breeding them to help repopulate them might seem like a positive effort. However, conserving elephants is not as simple as forcefully breeding them in an enclosed area in the United States, which is not their natural habitat. People can better support elephants by protecting their natural habitats and stopping the ivory trade and elephant hunting. More importantly, keeping elephants at false conservation centers like the one managed by the Ringling holding company poses other challenges.

Ringling’s Center for Elephant Conservation Subjects Elephants to Harmful Living Conditions

Picture of baby elephant chained at the Center for Elephant Conservation.

A baby elephant chained in a barn at Ringling’s Center for Elephant Conservation. Picture courtesy of PETA.

The Center for Elephant Conservation came under fire even before Ringling decided to stop using elephants in their shows. A few months before retiring the elephants, PETA published a report documenting problems at the center:

  • Elephants are chained on concrete floors for hours on end.
  • Baby elephants are routinely taken and separated from their mothers.
  • Although the center has 200 acres, the elephants are often penned into smaller enclosures and cannot roam or graze freely.
  • Employees at the center use bull hooks and electric prods on the elephants.
  • Elephants at the center have had unusually high rates of tuberculosis.
  • Handlers and others often come in close, direct contact with the elephants.
  • The center does not plan on releasing any of the elephants they are breeding into the wild.
  • The center breeds elephants when they are still too young.

The report’s authors determined that “to Ringling, elephants are commodities, bred under the guise of conservation as living investments with no hope of a life in a natural setting.”

Elephants Are Not Meant to Live in Enclosures


Elephants at Ringling's Screenshot of elephants at the Center for Elephant Conservation.

Screenshot of elephants at the Center for Elephant Conservation.

If these conditions weren’t bad enough, living in enclosures and standing for hours on concrete leads to other health problems in elephants. Elephants are migratory. In the wild, they would normally travel large distances, but in captivity that isn’t possible. This can often lead to higher rates of obesity and diabetes while standing on hard surfaces contributes to arthritis and feet problems. Because of these issues, elephants in captivity usually don’t live as long as their wild relatives.

Ringling Holding Company Likely to Close “Conservation” Center for Financial Reasons

Elephants in captivity live shorter lives than wild elephants do.

Screenshot of elephants at the Center for Elephant Conservation.

The Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews told the Herald Tribune the Center for Elephant Conservation is probably going to close because they don’t want to funnel any more money into the facility.

Elephants may Move to a True Conservation Center

Elephant taking a bath at the Center for Elephant Conservation.

Screenshot of elephants at the Center for Elephant Conservation.

If the rumors are true, the retired circus elephants may move to a true conservation center. Matthews says the likely location is White Oak Conservation Center, which contains 10,000 acres and is a little over four hours northeast of Polk, Florida. While Matthews described this as a “step up,” nothing can replace an elephant’s natural habitat.

Note: Please keep comments peaceful and family friendly.

Join the Conversation


  1. Timothy Burton

    It is important that these animals are given the best possible treatment after what they have gone through.

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  2. Donna Giordano

    I hope these elephants will finally get some peace & be able to live out the rest of their lives in comfort. That’s the least that can be done for them after living their entire lives in abuse & chains. Elephants are highly intelligent creatures & they deserve better then the treatment they have received by circus’!!

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  3. Ellen Curley

    Elephants should never be used in cancer research. If you wouldn’t want to go through it then what a crime it is to subject another to it. I so hope these big guys get a break they so long have deserved. Ringling bros has been nothing but an abuser of animals.

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  4. Margarita

    Yes……yes ……yes….please shut down for good ringling brothers circus for good. For once and for all. It is so wrong to have wild animals perform for humans. Let the wild lives libr in their jungle please please.

    Reply Report comment
  5. Debra Broach

    I feel so bad for these animals. They have had to endure years and years of cruel treatment because of these greedy, corrupt, unfeeling, heartless, stupid, beings. I don’t want to even call them people. They have messed up these animals lives and now they get to throw them away. As usual the law, and the government is letting them get away with it. I knew there was a reason I never liked circuses and zoos as a matter of fact. After going through torture and not having a normal, natural life that they would have had in the wild, NOW… ringling brothers want to send them so a conservation center, that again, they will have to adapt to. I guess it is better than where they are now. I just wish so much that these beautiful animals could go home and life the lives they were put on this earth to live and all the people at ringling bros. involved with capturing, training, and displaying these animals for entertainment would walk off the face of the earth into a giant lion pit. Humans are so unbelievable.

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  6. Albertino Carlos Barata Lopes

    Oh, Nina Jackel, Thank you for your feelings, the world will be better. Provided there is more, Nina Jackel. The innocent weep on the fifth death. My obligation is to give my life, if necessary, so that others may live. I’m in Portugal, but I’m from the Lady Freethinker Organization, for TUDOooo.!
    I have no money, and I can not help. Sorry…
    Honey, Nina Jackel, the world thanks you, and I’m your slave for whatever you need … I THANK YOU !!!

    Reply Report comment
  7. Albertino Carlos Barata Lopes

    I can not bear to see large or small animals being tortured, so that the mentally ill live with their pain.
    To see the pain of that elephant mother, to see her son scream in despair, and to be able to do nothing … This elephant mother makes me cry …
    You can no longer continue, than the VIRUS MAN, make you suffer innocents … (so strong and can not defend your family !!!)…

    Reply Report comment
  8. Budann

    What is wrong with us. Animals have assisted us in so many ways. Wars, transportation, farming and all we do is abuse them.

    Reply Report comment
  9. Amy L Nainstein

    Hasn’t Ringling Brothers abused elephants enough? Do they really need to continue their abuse?

    Reply Report comment
  10. linda

    If they have over 200 acres why the need to chain the elephants indoors don’t make no sense. Do they still have the need to be cruel for as long as they can get away with it or what. These people would earn a lot more respect and help from others if they turned their own lives around with love and respect to their follow creatures. Would get more willing help with finances and things to that nature if needed.

    Reply Report comment

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