Trav­el­ling shows re­tire their huge at­trac­tions

7 Days in Dubai - - SPECIAL REPORT -

in­gling Bros and Bar­num & Bai­ley Cir­cus bid farewell to its per­form­ing ele­phants this week, as the show closed its own chap­ter on a prac­tice that has en­ter­tained au­di­ences in Amer­ica for two cen­turies but has come un­der fire by an­i­mal rights ac­tivists.

“This is a very emo­tional time for us,” Ring­mas­ter Johnathan Lee Iver­son told the crowd as the per­for­mance came to an end in Prov­i­dence, Rhode Is­land, on Sun­day.

He called the six Asian ele­phants beloved mem­bers of the cir­cus fam­ily and thanked the an­i­mals for more than 100 years of ser­vice.

“We love our girls. Thank you so much for so many years of joy,” he said as the ele­phants left the ring for a fi­nal time.

“That’s his­tory tonight there, ladies and gentle­men, true Amer­i­can icons.” Seth Ro­gen still feels like an out­sider in Hol­ly­wood. Although he’s one of the most suc­cess­ful com­edy ac­tors in the busi­ness, Seth - who has also writ­ten movies in­clud­ing Su­per­bad, Pineap­ple Ex­press and The In­ter­view - ad­mit­ted he feels left out dur­ing awards sea­son as come­dies rarely re­ceive nom­i­na­tions. He told “When­ever awards sea­son hap­pens I sure feel like an out­sider be­cause no com­edy ever gets nom­i­nated for any awards in any way, shape of form. “There’s a hi­er­ar­chy in Hol­ly­wood and com­edy’s at the bot­tom of it.” How­ever, Seth was de­lighted this year when his good friend, An­chor­man director Adam McKay won a Best Adapted Screen­play Os­car for The Big Short, calling it a “step in the right di­rec­tion”. He said: “That movie is ac­tu­ally re­ally funny, but I for sure feel like an out­sider in a lot of ways.”

Ear­lier, the crowd watched as the ele­phants per­formed an act that had them danc­ing, bal­anc­ing on each oth­ers’ backs, sit­ting on their hind legs and pre­tend­ing to sleep.

“We came to say farewell to the ele­phants,” said Sheila Oliver, of East Prov­i­dence, who brought her four-year-old daugh­ter, Lil­liana. “This is her first cir­cus and, un­for­tu­nately, it’s their last one.”

Five ele­phants also per­formed ear­lier on Sun­day in a Rin­gling Bros show in Wilkes Barre, Penn­syl­va­nia.

The Prov­i­dence show opened with the na­tional an­them. An ele­phant car­ried a per­former hold­ing an Amer­i­can flag then stood at at­ten­tion as the song ended. A few min­utes later, six ele­phants en­tered the ring, each hold­ing the tail of the one in front of her. Af­ter Sun­day’s per­for­mance, the an­i­mals will live at Rin­gling’s 200-acre Centre for Ele­phant Con­ser­va­tion in Florida, said Alana Feld, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of Feld En­ter­tain­ment, which owns the cir­cus. Its herd of 40 Asian ele­phants, the largest in North Amer­ica, will con­tinue a breed­ing pro­gramme and be used in a pae­di­atric can­cer re­search project.

Ele­phants have been used in the cir­cus in Amer­ica for more than 200 years. In the early 1800s, Hack­aliah Bai­ley added the ele­phant “Old Bet” to his cir­cus. PT Bar­num added the African ele­phant he named “Jumbo” to The Great­est Show on Earth in 1882.

The Hu­mane So­ci­ety says more than a dozen cir­cuses in the United States con­tinue to use ele­phants. But none tour as widely or are as well-known as Rin­gling Bros.

It’s also get­ting more difficult for cir­cuses to tour with ele­phants. Dozens of cities have banned the use of bull­hooks - used to train ele­phants - and some states are con­sid­er­ing such laws.

Just as in the Dis­ney movie Dumbo, ele­phants in the past have been dressed up as peo­ple and trained to do a range of tricks: play base­ball, ride bi­cy­cles, play mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, wear wed­ding dresses or dress in mourn­ing clothes, said Ronald B To­bias, au­thor of the 2013 book Be­he­moth: The His­tory of the Ele­phant in Amer­ica.

The change at Rin­gling sig­ni­fies a shift in Amer­i­cans’ un­der­stand­ing of ele­phants, To­bias said. Peo­ple no longer see ele­phants as cir­cus per­form­ers, he said, “but sen­tient an­i­mals that are ca­pa­ble of a full range of hu­man emo­tions”.

At­ti­tudes are shift­ing about other an­i­mals as well. Last month, Sea World an­nounced it would end live orca shows and breed­ing. Rin­gling will con­tinue to use an­i­mals, Feld said, such as lions, tigers, dogs and pigs.

Be­fore Sun­day’s show, about half a dozen pro­test­ers stood out­side, in­clud­ing one wear­ing a lion cos­tume, to protest the use of an­i­mals.

STARS: Ele­phants per­form for the last time at Rin­gling Bros cir­cus in the United States

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