(ANIMAL NEWS/CIRCUS ELEPHANTS) After 145 years of performing unnatural tricks and enduring senseless abuse, the elephants of Ringling Bros. circus performed in their final show in Providence, Rhode Island on Sunday.

Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, initially vowed to retire the elephants by 2018. Fortunately for the performing elephants as well as the activists who have fought for decades for their freedom, the farewell performance came two years sooner than originally scheduled. Soon the elephants will be heading to the Center for Elephant Conservation in Central Florida for their long-awaited retirement.

Read on to learn more about the history of Ringling Brothers’ elephant performances and this landmark moment for animal rights. — Global Animal

Abusive methods are often used to train circus animals. Photo credit: Kerri9494 via flickr
Abusive methods are often used to train circus animals. Photo credit: Kerri9494 via flickr

CNN, Faith Karimi

After decades of giant tricks and synchronized dances, the elephants at Ringling Bros. performed their final act Sunday.

The elephants’ last show was in Providence, RI, nearly two years before the pachyderms’ expected retirement.

Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, had said its touring elephants would head to a Florida conservation center by 2018.

The animals are going to the facility a bit earlier.

During Sunday’s show, the elephants paraded into the stage as they had for years, linked to each other trunk-to-tail. For the last show, the stars spun, frolicked, stood on their hind legs and posed in a headstand. At one point, they even faked a nap, only to rise when the audience yelled “Wake up, elephants!”

Then the parade of elephants sauntered off the stage in the exact way they had arrived, in a slow, synchronized march holding the tail of the elephant in front of them as their last show was streamed live on Facebook.

The elephants’ final exit from the circus brought back memories for people who grew up with the circus.

Outcry from animal rights groups

Los Angeles City Council banned the use of bullhooks in circuses on Wednesday.
Bullhooks are often used as weapons to tear the skin of elephants, and beat them bloody. Photo Credit: PETA

The retirement marked the end of an era for the elephants, which were a big part of the Ringling Bros.’ performances. For years, the elephants and their dance routines featured prominently in the shows.

But several animal rights groups repeatedly criticized, picketed and sued Ringling Bros. for their treatment of the animals.

In 2011, Feld Entertainment agreed to pay a fine of $270,000 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The company did not admit wrongdoing but promised to implement new training for all personnel who handle animals.

On Sunday, animal activists, including PETA were there to protest the treatment of the animals.

Other animals

The elephants may be gone, but other animals will stay put. Last year, Ringling Bros. said their shows “will continue to feature other extraordinary animal performers, including tigers, lions, horses, dogs and camels.”

When the initial retirement announcement was made, Ringling Bros. had 13 elephants traveling for their shows. When they are moved, 42 Asian elephants will call the conservation center home.

The Ringling Bros.’ elephant conservation center sits on 200 acres of land in rural Florida, halfway between Orlando and Sarasota.

The circus visits about 115 cities each year with a full cast of between 250 and 300 people.

More CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/01/us/ringling-bros-elephants-last-show/