Elephants retire from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

Published: Jun. 4, 2016 at 10:16 PM CDT
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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is performing in the capital city this weekend, but there's something big missing from their performances.

If you haven't seen them, you've probably heard of the iconic form of entertainment: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's Circus.

While you'll see high wire acts and plenty of unique twists in the show, you won't see the elephants.

They call them the "divas," the beautiful, Asian elephants who have been wowing audiences for a whopping 145 years.

But they took their last bow on May 1st in Providence, Rhode Island, about a month before the circus came to Lincoln.

Ringling Bros. says the elephants have a new home at the Center for Elephant Conservation.

Ryan Henning has worked with animals in the circus for almost 13 years and he's the Assistant Animal Superintendent.

While he says he'll certainly miss the "divas" he believes in the decision made to move them to their new home.

Hening said, "For over a decade I worked closely with the elephants. 90% of my time I spent with the elephants but you have to adapt to change and embrace it."

This past May, the rest of the Asian elephants were taken out of the circus and taken to the CEC, which is a 200-acre facility in Florida that Ringling Bros. says is "dedicated to the care and conservation of these animals."

Ryan Henning said what the center is doing, can help protect this endangered species.

"We've had 26 babies born into our breeding program and right now we have the largest sustainable herd of captivation elephants, a herd of 39 Asian elephants,and we're expecting more on the way."

Also the elephants are taking part in medical research.

Ryan Henning said, "We really want to focus on our cancer research. Linking the two. elephants to humans and finding why elephants rarely get cancer opposed to humans. And one day hopefully we'll be able to use elephants as a treatment for cancer."

So how else will they amaze audiences? Henning said this year's Circus XTREME show has plenty.

"We've got so many different unique circus acts that fill a 2-hour time frame. But it's, you know, a unique twist in this day and age. The best music, the best lights...and of course still a lot of exotic and domestic animals."

In total, there will be 40 elephants at the Center for Elephant Conservation, owned by Ringling Bros.

Several exotic and domestic animals still play a role in the circus.

Animal rights groups like PETA say they don't think any animals should be performing for entertainment.