Curtains close on Ringling Bros. circus in New York | News | DW | 22.05.2017
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Curtains close on Ringling Bros. circus in New York

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has performed its final act in New York after a 146-year run. Audiences had declined in recent years after protests over treatment of animals.

At the end of the final show on Sunday night, ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson led the performers, crew and audience in an emotional rendition of "Auld Lang Syne."

Parent company Feld Entertainment announced in January it would close the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, citing declining attendance and high operating costs.


Ringling Bros Barnum und Bailey Circus (Getty Images/B. Bennett)

Lions and tigers took part in the final performance

CEO Kenneth Feld called the final show "a celebration," adding that more than 250 million people had seen Ringling's performances.

Feld's father and uncle bought the circus in 1967 and sold it to Mattel in 1971 before buying it back again 11 years later.

"It's incredibly heartwarming to see all of you that have come out for the final performance," Feld said at the sold-out show near New York City, which was live streamed on the company website.

"We all have to embrace change," he said. "But there is a love for the circus that will never die."

Animal protests

The inclusion of circus acts using elephants, lions, tigers, pigs and other animals had brought complaints from animal rights activists over the years. They said that forcing the animals to perform and transporting them around the country amounted to abuse.

Elephants were removed from the shows last year. About 11 elephants were sent to spend their remaining days at Ringling's Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida.

After the elephants left, the owner said, the decline in attendance was "greater than could have been anticipated."

Feld has been working to relocate the animals. Some owned by the company are expected to be moved to zoos and conservation centers in the US. 

"Our audiences today loved seeing horses, dogs and two very talented 700-pound (317 kilogram) pigs," Feld spokesman Stephen Payne said Sunday.

There were two final touring circuses. One was a traditional three-ring circus which ended its run in Providence, Rhode Island earlier in May.

Tier Nase - Elefant (picture alliance/AP Images/Chattanooga Times Free Press/D. Henry)

Asia, a 47-year-old elephant, worked with the circus nearly her entire life

The other "Out of This World" show gave its final performance in Uniondale, New York on Sunday night. Set in futuristic outer space, it included performances with big cats, motorcycles, clowns, ice skaters, aerialists and basketball players. An act called "The Fuzzies" featured dogs, pigs, llamas and goats.

Feld Entertainment will continue with other productions such as Frozen on Ice, Marvel Live, Supercross, Monster Trucks and Disney on Ice.

jm/cmk (AP, Reuters)

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