The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is retiring its herd of 11 elephants in May after years of arguments between circus officials and animal rights advocates who complained about the animals' treatment.
The circus, owned by Feld Entertainment, has also grappled with a series of new local orders making use of the elephants in a performance illegal.
All the elephants will be retired to the company's 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida, NBC reports. There are currently 29 elephants on the refuge now, and two others are on breeding loans to zoos. Feld owns the largest herd of Asian elephants in North America.
The current animal performers will "be joining the rest of the herd," said Alana Feld, Ringling's executive vice president, who is also part of the family that owns Feld.
It costs about $65,000 annually to care for each elephant. The company had to build new structures to house the retiring elephants at the Florida site, which is close to Tampa.
Feld had announced last year that it would retire its elephants in 2018. But because so many governments had passed "anti-circus" and "anti-elephant" laws, it became difficult to organize tours of three traveling circuses to 115 cities each year, said a company spokesman.
Ringling's next round of shows will begin in July — without the trumpeters.
"We're looking at a lot of new ways of doing things," Feld said.