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Local circus manager discusses Ringling Bros. decision to phase - KOAM TV 7

Local circus manager discusses Ringling Bros. decision to phase out elephants by 2018

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The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus today announced it will begin phasing out all elephants from performances by 2018.

Around 50 jurisdictions in cities and counties across the country have recently passed various legislation on elephants, making it difficult for circus organizations to plan nationwide tours. 

Larry Solheim, general manager of the Tarzan Zerbini Circus, currently in Joplin, believes those varying regulations to be the key contributing factor to the Ringling Bros. decision, rather than the mistreatment of animals.

"If they can't have elephants in one city, it affects their show greatly," Solheim said. "They don't want to skip that city, so they have to change their show. They would prefer to have the same show at all of their venues."

Solheim says if anything, the Ringling Bros. decision will benefit the family circus.

"We feel it will make things more special for us because we will still have the animals," Solheim said.

Members of Animal Defenders International, a campaign group working against animal use in entertainment, say the Ringling Bros. decision is a positive step in the right direction.

"After decades of exposing the suffering of animals in circuses behind the scenes, ADI is very happy to hear the announcement from Ringling Brothers," said Matt Rossell, campaign director for Animal Defenders International. "We encourage other circuses to move towards animal free shows."

Solheim argues the majority of circus animals are not mistreated.

"There's always going to be bad people out there," he said.

But Solheim ensures his circus animals are treated with the utmost care, and as part of the family.

"These animals were raised with their trainers," Solheim said. "The animals have a special bond that they don't get with a circus like Ringling Brothers, who have large staffs and a large number of animals that may get shifted around. Our animals are secure. They're safe. This is their environment."

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus will continue to use other animals in its performances.

Surveys conducted by managers of the Tarzan Zerbini Circus show animals to be rated as the number one attraction.
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