Ringling Bros. circus closing show after 146 years
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced it will host its final show in May, ending "The Greatest Show on Earth" after 146 years.
Company executives cited high operating costs and declining ticket sales after the American circus retired its elephants -- a main draw -- as some of the factors that triggered its downfall.
Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of show producer Feld Entertainment, said he and his family came to the "difficult" decision to end the circus "after much evaluation and deliberation."
"Nearly 50 years ago, my father founded our company with the acquisition of Ringling Bros.," he said in a statement on the group's website."
"The circus and its people have continually been a source of inspiration and joy to my family and me, which is why this was such a tough business decision to make."
The final "Circus XTREME" show will take place at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island on May 7, while the group's "Out Of This World" tour will take place May 21 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.
In May 2015, the circus retired its performing elephants after major criticism from animal rights groups, including widely circulated videos from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that showed a male handler hitting elephants with an ankus, or pointed stick.
The Ringling Brothers herd was the largest in the western hemisphere for Asian elephants, listed as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which says 40,000-50,000 exist in the world in highly fragmented populations.
"It is sad. You feel it is the end of an era," long-time trainer Trudy Williams told AFP at the time.
Ringling Brothers was also embroiled in a 14-year lawsuit in which animal rights groups alleged the circus was mistreating its herd.
The case was eventually thrown out after a lead witness was found to have been paid for his testimony by animal rights groups.
By 2014, the plaintiffs, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society, had been ordered to pay the circus $25 million to reimburse its legal fees.
© 2017 AFP