Ringling Bros. Circus plans to stop using elephants by May 2016

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Elephants walk around the arena during a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performance in Washington, DC on March 19, 2015. Across America through the decades, children of all ages delighted in the arrival of the circus, with its retinue of clowns, acrobats and, most especially, elephants. But, bowing to criticism from animal rights groups, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced on March 5, 2015, it will phase out use of their emblematic Indian stars. AFP PHOTO/ ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS

Feld Entertainment, the parent Company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey, announced that it will retire all of its Asian elephants two years earlier than it originally planned.

In March 2015, the company said it would move its touring elephants to the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida by 2018.

Now, the elephants that are on tour will join their herd at the conservation center by May of this year.

“Our company and our family’s commitment to save the majestic Asian elephant will continue through our breeding program, research and conservation efforts at the center,” Ringling Bros. producer Alana Feld said in a release.

The Ringling Bros.’ treatment of elephants has also come under scrutiny, according to CNN.

It has been repeatedly criticized — and even sued — by several animal rights groups, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States.

In 2011, the circus was fined $270,000 by the USDA for violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

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