The Center for Elephant Conservation takes the Ringling Brothers elephants out of the 3 ringed circus and into a place they can call home!
Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus has been an ongoing tradition across the globe for over 145 years! Recently however, the decision was made to remove the elephants from the road due to logistical problems. With that decision made the only question that remains is where do the elephants go? Luckily just down the road from Orlando is the Ringling Brothers Center for Elephant Conservation! I had the opportunity to visit the CEC and speak to the men and women who take care of these amazing animals on a daily basis!
The Center for Elephant Conservation, or CEC is a state of the art facility that allows for multiple purposes. Ringling focuses on the 3 R’s for the main purpose of the CEC. Those roles are Rehabilitation, Research and Reproduction! Let’s take a closer look into the 3 categories that the CEC uses daily in their roles and interaction with these amazing elephants!
The Ringling Brothers elephants travel across the country to showcase their skill, beauty, and power for hundreds of thousands of people each and every year. But what happens to the elephants when they need a break, are ready to retire, or just need some relaxation? They head over to the Center for Elephant Conservation! This state of the art facility houses the largest number of Asian elephants in the Western Hemisphere! Here the elephants are given everything they are needed from housing, top quality fruits, vegetables, and hay, plenty of fresh drinking water, a daily bath, top quality healthcare and 24 hour a day monitoring!
The CEC currently has elephants ranging from 2 years old (Max) to their oldest elephant Mysore who tops out at 70 years old! These elephants are given the freedom to roam around their enclosures and be social with the other elephants around them! They are all taken back to the barn each and every night for close monitoring and around the clock care!
What can we learn about elephants? Why would we want to even think to do so? After speaking with the staff at the CEC I learned that elephants have a lot to tell us! First off the CEC looks at the reproductive cycle of elephants. The elephant has the longest gestation of any mammal at 22 months. Even though we know some about the cycles, there is no information about when these animals go into ovulation due to the fact that there is no timeline for just when these animals can become pregnant. The CEC is allowing for researchers to learn more about reproduction of these animals to allow for more pregnancy and hopeful repopulation in the wild! This research is done on a weekly basis through husbandry practices, routine well checks and weekly blood draws.
The CEC is also taking strides at helping to find a cure for pediatric cancer. The team at the CEC under supervision from Dr. Wendy Kiso and Dr. Dennis Schmitt are sending blood samples that are already drawn on a weekly basis to help Dr. Joshua Schiffman do research into why elephants rarely get cancer! This groundbreaking research (which will be broken down more in a future article) will help researchers understand why elephants hardly get cancer and hopefully unlock a vaccine or a pill to help end pediatric cancer in humans!
In the 20 years that the Center for Elephant Conservation has been open, 2f calves have been born under the watch and supervision of the staff at the CEC! Not only is that a feat due to the 22 month gestation period and the fact that only 2-4 elephants are born in the USA every year! The team at the CEC is not only helping the population of elephants here but also around the USA and world. The CEC has a vast library of semen collected from their bulls that can help repopulate the elephants not only here in Florida but the US and possibly world!
Lastly I want to talk about the team at the CEC. This team of professional animal trainers, vets, doctors, researchers, and care takers work around the clock to ensure the health, safety, and comfort of these endangered animals. They work around the clock 24/7 to make sure they have the top level of care, the essentials they need to survive, as well as interaction and playtime with the staff as well as other elephants.
As of right now, there are no immediate plans to open the CEC for public viewing. The CEC however does offer group tours and visitation on a planned basis. To learn more about the Center for Elephant Conservation, you can check out their website here!
I would like to thank Ringling Brothers, FELD Entertainment as well as the staff at the CEC for allowing me to come take a up close look at your center and the amazing work you do daily to make sure these amazing animals are around for generations to come!