Elephants will be retired from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus earlier than expected.
The circus’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, told The Associated Press they will retire all 11 of their touring elephants in May, a year and a half early.
The news comes almost a year after Feld Entertainment announced the elephants would be phased out and eventually retired by 2018. However, while planning for 2018 the company realized they could retire the giant animals sooner than originally thought.
Feld Entertainment says it costs about $65,000 yearly to care for each elephant. That care requires the construction of new structures to house the retiring elephants.
The move comes amid a growing “anti-elephant” mood in the industry as local governments pass “anti-circus” by-laws due to concerns over animal cruelty. Animal rights activists have long alleged that circuses have mistreated elephants.