The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending its elephant acts a year and a half early, and will retire all of its touring elephants in May. The move comes amid increasing scrutiny of circus elephant acts with local governments passing “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” ordinances in response to concerns over animal cruelty. The circus’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, told The Associated Press exclusively that all of the iconic elephants will be permanently retired to the company’s 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation, located between Orlando and Tampa. The company announced in March that it would retire the full herd to the center by 2018. But once officials began planning details, they realized “we could actually do this a lot sooner” because building the new structures to house the retiring elephants didn’t take as long as they originally thought, said Alana Feld, Ringling’s executive vice president and show producer. It costs about $65,000 yearly to care for each elephant, Feld said. Eleven elephants currently tour with the circus. “They’ll be joining the rest of the herd,” Feld said. She’s part of the family that owns Feld Entertainment, which owns the largest herd of Asian elephants in North America. In addition to the elephants still touring, 29 of the animals are on the property now, and two are on breeding loans to zoos, Feld said. Animal rights groups on Monday applauded Ringling’s new timeline and announcement.