Ringling Brothers opened their 2016 circus season in Tampa, the company’s winter headquarters, and I noticed that each year the elephant performers are less and less. In two years all the Ringling elephants will be retired to the Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk City.
People will be limited in visiting the Center for it is an elephant rest home, not a tourist attraction. The elephants will mainly eat, sleep, and look at you. It does cost $70,000 per year to feed and house each elephant so your donations will be gladly accepted.
The USA’s second oldest elephant in retirement
This event reminded me that while Florida has many popular commercial animal attractions like Busch Gardens, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Palm Beach’s Lion Country Safari, plus many top notch city zoos, Florida has become the home of many wild animal retirement sanctuaries. Unfortunately, domesticated performing animals like lions and tigers can not be released into the wilds of Africa and Asia and expect top survive.
Big Cat Rescue located in the Citrus Park section of Tampa rescues exotic felines and rehabilitating injured or orphaned native wild cats. It is the largest accredited sanctuary in the USA entirely housing abused and abandoned big cats.
Tours, field trips and even night tours are expensive and restricted, for this is not a place where the priority goes to the tourists, but your participation directly or indirectly finances the efforts to rescue the big cats. You Tube usually has a series of interesting videos to show the center.
In Citra, Florida, is the Endangered Animal Rescue Sanctuary which protects lions, leopards, tigers, and circus bears. Over in Auburndale there is the Genesis Zoological Center, a non-profit rehabilitation center for Florida native wildlife, but host for some Siberian tigers.
Some relaxing leopards at EARS in Citra
The Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary in Punta Gorda is the home to many injured Florida wildlike like black bears and panthers, but they also have Bengal tigers, Amur Leopards, and Asian bears. Like most of these centers, tours are restricted and limited.
More and more people in Florida are realizing that Florida wildlife is a major economic and social resource. With Florida’s climate, Florida is a logical retirement place for the many carnival, circus, and exotic animals that wintered in Florida.