Yesterday (Sunday, May 1), a146-year-old American tradition of the circus elephant officially died out. Jumbo went into retirement.
As The Boston Globe’s Alex Beam wrote ahead of the event: “At Providence’s Dunkin’ Donuts Center…for the last time, elephants will perform in a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus.”
It’s one of those things that sounds sad but inevitable. It has become too difficult to have an elephant in a circus. There are the animal rightswallahs. All the litigation. The protests. The bad publicity.
And then there were changing social expectations. Somehow, it just no longer feels right to watch an animal perform or even to be on show in a zoo (unless the habitat is natural enough to not be overly confining.)
So what happens now that Jumbo no longer gets show time?
Apparently, the 10 elephants who’re still on tour with two Ringling shows will be despatched to a facility that’s akin to a retirement home in Polk City, Florida. (That’s controversial too, especially with PETA, but really, it seems very hard to please everyone.)
Anyway, soon the only jumbos around really will be “jumbo fries” and Tufts University’s sports teams, which are nicknamed the Jumbos.