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Protesters question fate of circus animals when curtain closes

Curtain lowers on 146-year-old 'Greatest Show on Earth'

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus is in town for the last time, marking the end of its 146-year tradition.

Top executives said they were forced to end the shows because of high operating costs and declining ticket sales. It was also a huge target for animal rights activists. Just last year, the circus ended its use of elephants after heavy pressure from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The circus had its final opening night Thursday, with more shows through Sunday.

Many people attending told News4Jax they were excited to see the circus one final time before the curtain closes forever.

While many are excited for the event, some protesters are still raising questions about what will happen to the circus animals.

"There's still a lot of unanswered questions, won't go to another circus to be used as animals," protester Adam Sugalski said.

As for the animals, a Ringling Brothers' spokesman said some of the animals, such as dogs and lions, are owned by their handler and will remain with them.

Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus, said suitable homes will be found for the kangaroos, horses, camels, tigers and other animals. Many of them will go to animal sanctuaries around the country.

Currently, there are two traveling shows.

The Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus will be in Jacksonville Jan. 19-22, the last Jacksonville show being at 5 p.m. Sunday. Click here for tickets and show times.