For years, Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey has provided an opportunity for children and adults to see elephants up close and be amazed at their size, agility and intelligence, and in many this experience grew into a love of animals and the environment. What is not as well known is the incredible commitment that Ringling Bros. and the Feld family have made to the preservation of the critically endangered Asian elephant through their support of the International Elephant Foundation (IEF) and their own conservation programs supporting both wild and captive elephants in Sri Lanka.
The tragic decimation of some African elephant populations for their ivory tusks is currently receiving the worldwide attention it deserves but the fight to protect all elephants continues to be an uphill battle. A more important story, is that not all elephants are under the same threat of poaching. The Asian elephant, which has more than ten times fewer individuals – 30,000 – 40,000 Asian elephants worldwide compared to 300,000 – 500,000 African elephants – is disappearing at an unprecedented rate throughout Southeast Asia due to habitat loss and human-elephant conflict. Every day Asian elephants are killed because their habitat is being taken by large-scale plantations, development concessions for logging/mining/road construction, altered by dams, small-scale farmers and growing rural communities.
This is a message that will no longer be as effectively communicated to the millions of people who attend Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus annually to see elephants. At a time when elephants are at risk of disappearing from the planet, we are sad that fewer children and adults will be able to see and develop a connection with a live Asian elephant in their home town, but IEF is pleased that Ringling Bros’ commitment to Asian elephants and their conservation will continue and even grow.
IEF is an organization working diligently and successfully for conservation of elephants. If you would like to learn more about the IEF or any of its many elephant conservation and research projects please visit the International Elephant Foundation website.