03/05/2015 08:05 EST | Updated 05/05/2015 05:59 EDT

Ringling Bros. Circus To Eliminate Elephant Acts By 2018 Amid Public Concerns

David A. Smith via Getty Images
BIRMINGHAM, AL - JANUARY 21: Circus elephants entertain the crowd during Ringling Bros. 'Elephant Brunch' at Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center on January 21, 2015 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by David A. Smith/Getty Images)

POLK CITY, Fla. - The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending its iconic elephant acts.

The circus' parent company, Feld Entertainment, told The Associated Press exclusively that the acts will be phased out by 2018. Growing public concern about how the animals are treated led to the decision.

The circus plans to phase out elephant acts by 2018. Feld's 43 elephants will live at the company's 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida. Twenty-nine animals are already there, and the other 14 will arrive as they are phased out from the circus.

Elephant acts have been showcased by Ringling for more than a century and have often been featured in its posters.

The decision is being announced Thursday.

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