The Ringling Brothers Center for Elephant Conservation: Making a Difference

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.

meeting an elephant

Our art director, Cesar Díaz getting close and personal with the friendly pachyderms.

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. elephant and mom

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.


baby elephant with mom

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.


baby elephant

This is baby Mike, a cute and playful little guy who loves to interact with visitors.

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.

baby elephant

One year old Piper is a sweet heart.

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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  1. I’m always unsure about how I feel about the circus. It’s really nice to hear that RB is doing something to help the elephants! (They’re adorable! 🙂 )

    1. Me too Wendy! I’ve seen circus shows that really mistreat their animals but that being said after seeing what the Ringling Bros. is doing and seeing how everyone in the CEC is so passionate about elephants I am convinced that we are talking about a company who really cares about their animals.

  2. I’m glad to see that more efforts are being made to preserve these awesome creatures. And the babies are so cute!

  3. Pero que belleza de animales, buena acción por parte de Ringling Brothers desconocía estaban tan comprometidos con la conservación y ayuda a los elefantes. Saludos!

    1. Si realmente se ve que tienen un compromiso real y los elefantes se ven muy felices.

  4. Looks like fun! Next time we are up that way we have to take our kids, they would have a blast!

    • Beth on 23 September, 2013 at 9:09 am
    • Reply

    Thanks for this informative message! My kids love learning about elephants and are excited to see them at the circus next week.

  5. What a grea opportunity amiga! Never knew this was in Florida!

    1. Me neither, I don’t think it’s open to the public but according to our art director it was amazing and I looked at all the videos and love what they are doing.

  6. Love that they’re being treated right! And how cute is that baby elephant? X)

  7. This is a nice contrast to how people usually see animal care at the circus. 🙂 It’s wonderful that they are actually truly caring for the animals rather than just discarding them in whatever fashion without care for their welfare.

    1. Totally agree Suzi. We’ve been to a couple of animal sanctuaries here in FL where the animals that where discarded because they could not perform at some show or on TV end up and it’s so sad. I love what Ringling Bros. is doing and how well and happy the ellies are at the CEC.

  8. I love the photos!!! Love how they are treated.

    1. I was impressed by how happy they look and how much they love people.

  9. Right here in Florida?? Who’d of thunk it? Gracias for sharing; it’s nice to know they are being taken care of after retirement. BB always said the best community was multigenerational, and that includes people AND animals- glad they’re being looked after. BB2U

    1. I didn’t know about it either until recently. They all look like they are very well taken care of. 🙂

  10. Wow! I have no Idea about it! I think this is great! And that litle one super cute! Thank you for sharing.

    • Deb on 23 September, 2013 at 2:21 pm
    • Reply

    Love elephants, especially the babies! Great write up! Thank you!

  11. Tremenda iniciativa de RB. Me alegro que le esten dando el cuidado que se merecen.

  12. Da alivio ver que a los elefantes los tratan bien en este circo. Siempre se escuchan cosas terribles y satisface saber que Ringling Brothers tiene este programa de protección.

  13. Ahí estaré pronto visitando tan hermoso lugar!

  14. Adoro los elefantes y ver a los elefantes bebés es tan tierno! Que excelente lugar! Muchas Gracias por la recomendación!

    ¡FELIZ DÍA!ॐ

  15. Qué lindas fotos! Me encantan los elefantes y hace mucho que no voy a un circo!

  16. Super cute!.. I did not know there was such a place for elephants!

  17. such a lovely and caring job they do 🙂

  18. No sabía que tenían este centro. Me encanta este blog y todo lo que me entero que tengo cerca y nunca supe.

  19. What a great experience. Funny how they are hairy! How cute is the baby from 1 to 10? I think 11! Check out those freckles! I’m glad to hear about the CEC efforts. Even more so to hear about the RB circus. I stopped going to the circus because of animal cruelty, I hope to be back. This makes me feel better.

  20. wow, estan hermosos los elefantes!!! me gusta mucho que los traten bien. cuando fui al circo en mexico me senti mal por ver los animales locked up and worked so hard 🙁 since then me prometi que no volvia a un circo 🙁

  21. Did a TV report on this place back in July. It’s incredible and I left with the same sentiments you guys did. So glad more positive stories like this are coming out about Ringling Bros’ work.

    1. Thanks for your comment Lisa, I am also happy to hear more about positive experiences about Ringling Bros’work. We really felt like they care about the animals and are truly passionate about them.

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