Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey is retiring its circus elephants this year. But the animals' work is not over yet. Medical researchers plan to study the elephants to help find new cancer treatments, officials said.
Ringling's last 11 working Asian elephants are currently on a farewell tour. Following criticism about how the animals are treated, the circus decided to retire the elephant act earlier than expected. The last shows featuring elephants will likely be May 1 in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
After their last performance, the elephants will be moved to a 200-acre conservation in Florida, where they will be the focus of medical research.
"Elephants rarely get cancer. We're working with Dr. Shipman to see if we might be able to find novel new treatments for cancer for kids and perhaps for everyone," said Stephen Payne, VP Communications, Feld Entertainment.
But some animal rights activists, like NYCLASS Campaign Organizer Julie Cappiello, said the endangered animals should not have to be tested and should be able to "live their lives as elephants."
Medical researchers to study retiring Ringling circus elepahnts