Switzerland’s leading circus, Knie, says it will stop using elephants in its shows, breaking with a long-standing tradition.
The Knie family said it would no longer have elephants performing in front of a public audience as of next year.
Instead, the company wants to focus on elephant breeding at its Rapperswil headquarters outside Zurich, as part of a European programme.
A statement on Tuesday said the decision was taken after long discussions within the family and was not the result of criticism by animal rights groups.
“The elephants are somehow part of our family,” said Franco Knie. Elephant shows were a signature feature for the circus since 1919.
In June and July, three elephant cows had died of old age.
The country's leading animal rights group, Swiss Animal Protection, welcomed the decision to stop using elephants. It acknowledged that the animals have been treated well by Knie which regularly tours around the whole of Switzerland.
Last March, one of the largest circus companies in the United States, The Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus, also announced it would phase out the use of elephants in its shows.
Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch and agencies