America's Ringling circus moves up elephants' retirement date

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Miami (AFP)

Ringling Brothers, America's best-known circus, announced Monday that it will relocate all of its elephants to a conservation center in Florida by May, advancing the retirement date for the giant pachyderms by more than a year.

"Feld Entertainment announced today that all of the Asian elephants from their traveling circus units will be moved to their permanent home at the Ringling Brothers Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida in May 2016," the parent company for the circus said in a statement.

"There they will join the rest of the Ringling Brothers' herd of Asian elephants, for a total of 42 at the conservation center."

The 145-year old "Greatest Show on Earth" -- bowing to criticism from animal rights groups -- announced in March that it would phase out use of their emblematic elephants, long a centerpiece of their annual traveling show.

Feld Entertainment originally had said elephants would be gradually withdrawn from the big top and completely gone only by 2018, but it now has accelerated that retirement date.

Ringling Brothers in 2011 had to pay a $270,000 fine after receiving citations over how it treated its animals, among other infractions over the years.

An increasing number of US towns and cities have adopted anti-elephant ordinances forbidding circus acts with elephants to enter the municipal limits.

Meanwhile, the circus said it would continue to feature other animals in its acts, including tigers, lions, horses, dogs and camels.