Contributed by: Martin J. Allred www.floridaography.com
Marking the end of an era, the “Greatest Show on Earth” concluded with the “Last Show on Earth” in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus elephants. The last 11 circus owned elephants just arrived from their final east coast performance and were greeted with a buffet fit for elephant. (I had to throw that in) Their new home is a 200 acre sanctuary in Polk City, Florida.
Feld Entertainment located in Palmetto, Florida owns the circus and has faced growing criticism and constant badgering by animal rights activists and many new local laws were restricting their animal performances.
The elephants performed for 145 years and were considered one of the main attractions for the circus. Many feel it’s only fitting that the circus now take care of the herd since the company prospered greatly with their performances.
The elephant sanctuary is located just a few miles from Disney World between Orlando and Tampa, Florida. Now with a total of 39 elephants, the Florida sanctuary has the largest population of Asian elephants in the Western Hemisphere.
The cost of taking care of just one elephant is over $55,000 per year. That will cost the owners over 2 million dollars annually to care for the large herd.
According to the sanctuary officials, the facilities are sensitive to the environment and utilize good drainage and water-saving devices. No trees were felled and no wetlands disturbed to build the sanctuary. The unspoiled site is also home to egrets, raccoons, snakes, turkeys, and many other native species. The Center for Elephant Conservation meets or exceeds all environmental requirements and regulations for housing elephants.
There are five outside paddock areas, all of which include structures to provide shade and constant access to drinking water. With an intricate system of 37 gates and walkways, each paddock can be accessed from any other one without animals having to exit secured areas.
There are four main animal buildings: a 17,000-square-foot main barn with birthing facilities monitored with 24-hour-a-day audio and video monitoring systems and an automated animal waste removal system (the building also contains an elevated office/lab/observation room, a feed storage room, and two workshop areas); two 3,100-square-foot male elephant barns; and a 4,900-square-foot double male elephant barn.
The elephant Toby below.