Disclosure: We received an invitation to visit the The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation and our travel and accommodations where provided. However all opinions are sincere and are my own.
When you think of Asian elephants and Ringling Bros. the image of them performing probably comes to mind. But what you probably didn’t know is that Ringling Bros. is responsible for creating one of the largest elephant conservation centers in the world. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation (CEC) is a 200-acre state of the art facility that was created in 1995 not only with the purpose of ensuring the present and future well-being of elephants that where to become part of the show or those who had retired but as a place dedicated to saving the Asian elephants. With less than 35,000 Asian elephants left in the wild, and the habitat of those in the wild increasingly threatened, captive breeding programs like the one at the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation are vital to the future survival of this amazing species.
This past week 365 Things To Do In Southwest Florida was invited to visit the (CEC), which is located in central Florida. We where introduced to the wonderful and important work that the CEC is doing and we got to meet and interact with these gentle and extremely social animals.
The CEC is home to the largest herd of Asian elephants in the Western Hemisphere: retired elephants, male elephants, calves, and elephants that just didn’t take a shine to circus life. It turns out only one third of the elephants enjoy performing and for the rest of them the CEC provides a wonderful home.
During this visit we learned so many things we did not know about Asian elephants and of coarse this information has made us much more aware of the importance of supporting Asian elephant conservation and we now see Ringing Bros. and FELD entertainment in a whole new light. Everyone we talked to was so passionate about elephant conservation and you could really see how much everyone at the CEC cares about the elephants there.
One of the most important and interesting things about the CEC is that it has the most successful breeding program outside of Southeast Asia and the largest heard of male elephants which is really significant because it gives them a great genetic diversity. This also means that there are lots of baby Asian elephants at the CEC, a total of 25 calves have been born there since the 90’s which is a very significant number considering that Asian elephant experts estimate that only two to four calves are born in the United States each year.
During our visit we got to meet and interact with many of these elephant calves. It was amazing to see each elephants distinct personality: one year old Piper was a sweetheart while two month old Mike was a curious and super social little charmer. You can learn more about these cute babies on the CEC website here. The most amazing part of the experience was getting to interact with them and seeing how truly happy and content they look at the CEC.
CEC Making Scientific Strides to Improve Elephant Conservation Efforts
We heard directly from Janice Aria, director of animal stewardship at the CEC and from Trudy Williams, manager of animal stewardship, about the scientific research and activities that are taking place at their state of the art lab. Some of these include studying the elephant’s behavior and learning to care for pubescent male elephants who become aggressive with each other, advances in cryo-conservation, testing different methods to successfully collect elephant semen and ways to successfully inseminate the female elephants. The CEC not only supports and ensures elephant preservation but also serves as the ideal place for training purposes from the personnel who will be working with elephants and other exotic animals in the shows to the training of scientist and veterinarians who work with this species.
With approximately 30 Asian elephants, all of whom are trained from birth, the CEC is making great strides in elephant conservation worldwide. One of the things that sets them apart is the fact that all of the elephants are trained and are used to interacting with humans. This makes working with these animals so much easier from checkups and scientific studies to artificial insemination. Giving scientists a unique opportunity to get up close and personal to these pachyderms and also providing the opportunity to educate the general public about these wonderful creatures.
Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey have a lifelong commitment to these animals. Scientists are working to cure diseases that affect Asian elephants, learn more about the places where the endangered animals live and spread the word about the importance of their conservation. Not only is Ringling Bros. caring for elephants her in the US but as a founding member of the International Elephant Foundation they also help sponsor efforts to provide emergency veterinary care, supplies, research scholarships and grants to elephant researchers and trainers around the world.
Elephant Appreciation Day is celebrated on September 22nd and it’s the perfect opportunity to create awareness and spread the word about the importance of saving the Asian elephant from extinction.
You can learn more about what the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation is doing for the Asian elephants by visiting their website here and also check out the CEC nursery page to meet the cute elephant babies.
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