Circus World elephants to retire after summer of 2023

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – Circus World announced Tuesday that its elephants will be retiring from performing under the big top after the summer of 2023.

Circus World stated that the time until the elephants retire will be spent in celebration, commemorating their history with the circus. Scott O’Donnell, Circus World site director, said plans are already underway.

“It’s a fitting tribute from a community that has embraced and celebrated elephants for more than a century,” O’Donnell said. “We hope that children of all ages will visit during the summer ahead and spend time with these cherished ladies before they head off to retirement.”

New exhibits will open in the Feld Visitor Center and Exhibition Hall, as well as the National Historic Landmark 1897 Elephant House, to honor the legacy of these animals. There will also be a daily presentation in the summer, which will educate visitors on elephant species, conservation efforts and daily care routines. Circus World also said guests can expect an elephant act with a rendition of “Happy Trails!” in each western-themed show.

The elephants will also serve as special grand marshals on Saturday, June 24, in the 2023 Big Top Parade in Baraboo.

Circus World explained that the elephants’ retirement is part of a five-year plan created with their care team and the Wisconsin Historical Society. They will go on to live at the Endangered Ark Foundation in Oklahoma with the rest of their herd.

O’Donnell said that animals will continue to be involved at Circus World performances and that the equine program will be back in 2024.

“Our focus will continue to emphasize a positive and respectful relationship between humans and animals,” O’Donnell said.

Elephants have been a part of the Baraboo circus community since 1888, which Circus World noted was when the Ringling Bros. Circus featured its first elephants, Babe and Fannie. Circus World did not say if its retiring elephants would be replaced in the future. NBC15 has reached out and will update this story with their response.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey announced earlier this year that it would return to performing, but without the animals.

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