by Ken Storey
Just as Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus ramps up efforts at its own elephant conservation center, another elephant center, one with direct ties to Disney, closes its doors.
The National Elephant Center in Fellsmere, Florida, was considered the next step in elephant conservation, deemed as both a temporary and permanent sanctuary for elephants.
Disney had strong ties with the National Elephant Center – John Lehnhardt, the former animal care director at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, served as the first executive director for the center. The first elephants at the new center were from Animal Kingdom.
Within a year the first elephant,
Less than a month after the second death, Lehnhardt retired from the volunteer position of executive director. Another former Animal Kingdom cast member left the center at that time, as well. Scott Krug, also formerly of Disney, became the acting manager at the the Center.
Last year, the Nashville Zoo sent the first of what was supposed to be four elephants to the center. That elephant, Juno, died within six months after
With Juno’s death, the National Elephant Center was left with only two elephants, the two remaining ones from
Within a week, both elephants were gone. One returned to
Then last month, the Center filed paperwork with the state confirming that it was withdrawing from doing business in Florida.
At one point there was
place its entire herd, the largest herd of Asian elephants outside Asia, at
its own conservation center in Polk City.
There’s no word on where Disney plans to send its elephants that can no longer get along in a herd or need a different place to retire. Ringling did speed up plans for its elephant center, allowing for the few remaining elephants on the road to
There’s no word on what will happen at the Fellsmere elephant conservation center, but with continued success at its Polk City facility, Ringling might have yet another new partnership with Disney in the works.