Elephants will remain in the show when the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus opens 7 p.m. Thursday at U.S. Bank Arena. (FOX19 NOW/file)
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's plan to phase out the show's iconic elephants from its performances by 2018 isn't impacting the show when it opens Thursday night at U.S. Bank Arena - or stopping animal activists from protesting.
All 13 elephants currently on tour will perform when the circus holds its 7 p.m. debut at U.S. Bank Arena , said Stephen Payne, a vice president with Feld Entertainment, Inc., the parents company of Ringling Bros.
"For now, people who come to the greatest show on earth will still see the largest performers on earth," he said.
Cincinnati animal cruelty advocates are planning to protest at 6 p.m. on the corner of Broadway Street and Pete Rose Way.
Feld, which owns the largest herd of Asian elephants in North America, announced Thursday the company will move the retiring animals once new buildings to house them are up and running at its Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida.
The company needs time to execute that plan and can't just immediately yank the animals from the show, Payne said.
"These elephants weight about 8,000 pounds and their housing and care is a 24-7 effort, so it's not just something you can flip a switch on," he said. "We need to do this over time to make sure it's in their best care and interests. We are developing a timeline now because there obviously needs to be construction and staffing considerations. Our commitment to the elephants has not wavered. We hope that when we come to Cincinnati, people will have the opportunity to come and see for themselves."
Feld has no plans to withdraw other animals from its acts at this point, he said.