You may not know that Ringling Brothers maintains a captive breeding program that may be saving increasingly threatened wild Asian elephants, whose numbers have twindled to less than 35,000.

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Thomas Albert, Vice President of Government Relations for Feld Entertainment and the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation, and Janice Aria, Director of Animal Stewardship at the Elephant Conservation center, explained the conservancy program in Florida as well as the companies assistance in elephant conservancy in Shri Lanka at the annual meeting of the National Animal Interest Alliance  in Florida.

As they explained, and as reiterated on their website:

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is proud of the research and animal care practices we share around the world, most recently through our partnership with the government of the island nation of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s small size and large number of people makes it one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Sri Lanka is also home to approximately 6,000 Asian elephants, making it one of the most important range countries for endangered Asian elephants.”

It’s work in Shri Lanka was initiated because of the decreasing numbers of elephants there.  As they explain:

“Because of the large population of people and elephants in Sri Lanka, sometimes there is human-elephant conflict (HEC) and the elephants usually suffer the most. In fact HEC is the single greatest threat to the survival of Asian elephants. That is why Ringling Bros. is working with the Sri Lankan Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) to help come up with solutions to prevent HEC. And by partnering with two major Sri Lankan universities, we’ve been able to share our wealth of veterinary and elephant husbandry experience with a new generation of Sri Lankans.”

“Ringling Bros. supports the DWC’s Asian Elephant Transit Home, which saves the lives of orphaned elephants and facilitates their return to the wild.”

In the face of increasing criticsm about the circus’ inclusion of elephants in their shows, they explain why they believe it is important for the public to continue to be exposed and entertained by these magnifient creatures:

  • “Studies have shown that the public display of performing elephants contributes to heightened public awareness of the animals themselves and of our responsibility for their well-being and protection. This is especially true for children, who not only become more aware of elephants and their special needs and abilities, but also experience firsthand the importance of caring for and respecting all animals.
  • The display and care of elephants and other performing animals are subject to animal welfare laws and regulations at the federal, state and local levels. Ringling Bros. has an excellent record of care for all our animals.
  • Under the federal Animal Welfare Act, all circuses are required to have a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) exhibitor’s license. The USDA conducts regular unannounced inspections of performing animals and their stable areas. The federal Animal Welfare Act regulates and sets guidelines for housing, transportation and care for most of our performing animals. However, Ringling Bros. observes these guidelines for our entire animal family.
  • Circuses and other animal exhibitors are also subject to state and local animal welfare laws and permit requirements. Such regulations provide protection to all performing animals and allow for the prosecution of those who neglect or mistreat the animals in their care.”