Elephants are no longer performers in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. After centuries of putting on shows across the country, the circus’ elephants will retire and join the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida.
The final performance took place Sunday night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island, which seats more than 12,000. But the live performance wasn’t exclusive to those attendees. The circus hosted live streaming video of the performance on its Facebook page as well as its website.
In that stream, concurrent viewers reached more than 8,000. Just an hour after posting, the video had more than 66,000 views.
Between sets of the more than 30-minute performance, the stream showed clips of former and current employees of the circus and the history of working with the elephants. “Ringling Brothers is all about change,” Alana Feld, the executive vice president and show producer, said in the video.
In January, Feld Entertainment, the parent company behind Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, announced that the elephants would be removed from the traveling circus and be placed in the conservation center. That timing was two years earlier than previously planned.
The decision came after decades of animal rights advocates protesting the use of elephants in shows and highlighting mistreatments. For instance, PETA reported young elephants being taken away from their mothers when female elephants often spend their entire lives together.
Viewers of the stream included fans of the elephants in the shows. “Will really miss these majestic beautiful animals. They amaze me each and every time I see them. My favorite animal ever. Thank you for sharing this historic show with all of us,” one Facebook user posted.
“Let these gentle souls retire in peace,” another Facebook user wrote.
Ringling Bros. deleted some comments on the video and previous posts, which they claim contained profanity or were inappropriate.
“Due to profanity and inappropriate comments towards fans and other Facebook users, we have deleted and blocked certain users. If you have any questions regarding our elephants and their transition to their forever home at the Center for Elephant Conservation or our show, feel free to ask. Thank you,” the organization posted on the page.
In March, SeaWorld announced its plan to phase out its shows featuring orcas. That decision came three years after the release of “Blackfish,” a documentary critical of the park’s treatment of the killer whales including the death of a trainer in 2010.
After tonight’s show, these elephants are off to their new home at the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation. #RinglingBros
— Ringling Bros. (@RinglingBros) May 2, 2016
Ringling Bros.’ 11 Asian elephants will soon be transferred and will be studied for conservation purposes and also for medicine. The video explains that these animals can provide important insights for cancer research.
The company will continue to host shows without the elephants. The next traveling performance is called “Out of This World” and will start in July in California.