Last Friday, I had the opportunity to go somewhere not many people have ever been – I went on a tour of The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation located in Polk City, Florida. Not open to the public, this conservation center offered a fascinating look at elephants and a day that left me feeling inspired.
Serving as a home to retirees, calves and their mothers, male elephants, and elephants that don’t have the temperament to enjoy the circus life. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey cares for the largest herd of Asian elephants in the Western Hemisphere with 44 elephants.
I knew the minute we sat down to talk with Janice Aria, Director of Animal Stewardship that we were in for a treat. Janice started working with elephants in 1972, she knows these animals so well and you could just sense the passion in her voice.
“If you aren’t in awe standing next to an elephant, than you aren’t paying attention.” - Janice Aria, Director of Animal Stewardship.
”It’s hard not to be passionate about these animals.” - Janice Aria, Director of Animal Stewardship.
This fantastic conservation center is over 200 acres and opened in 1995. Since then, 26 elephants have been born at the center. Considering that there are less than 35,000 Asian elephants left in the entire world – that’s an astonishing number.
In 1973, a treaty was put in to place stating that all elephants must be born in the United States – transporting elephants across international borders is no longer allowed. If facilities (zoos, conservation centers, etc) do not produce an overall average of six female calves each year, there will be no elephants left in the United States in 50 years.
During our visit, we learned more about these beautiful animals from Dr. Wendy Kiso. She’s considered a rock star in the world of elephant world and she’s literally traveled the world learning about this species. Dr. Kiso explained the birthing process of elephants and talked a bit about breeding programs. Did you know an elephant is pregnant for 22 months and they only ovulate four times a year? (Craziness!)
Here’s a peek at mama Angelica and baby Mike – these two were my favorite elephants we met. Little Mike was born June 27, 2013 at the center and weighed 214 pounds! He was extremely friendly and he trotted all throughout the yard while we visited with him.
** I was an invited guest of The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation. My travel and accommodations were provided. Thoughts and opinions here are 100% my own. **