BALTIMORE (WJZ) — One of the most popular acts of “The Greatest Show on Earth” is coming to an end. Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey says it’s time to retire their elephants.

As Gigi Barnett explains, animal rights groups are taking credit for forcing the circus company to finally make the move.

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When the circus comes to Baltimore, the elephants have graced Charm City streets with a stroll near Lexington Market. But after nearly two centuries in showbiz, it’s curtains for the performing pachyderms of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus company, is calling the three year phase out bittersweet.

“There’s no question about that. But it is the best thing and we felt this was the right time to do it,” said Kenneth Feld, Feld Entertainment chairman.

The “right” time has taken a long time, according to animal rights groups–like PETA–which have protested the use of Asian elephants by capturing hidden videos showing handlers using devices to control the animals before shows.

Add in the compounding problem of more anti-circus and anti-elephant city and county laws across the country, and keeping the pachyderm show is rife with roadblocks.

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The elephants will completely disappear from the ring by 2018.

But for animal rights groups, that is not fast enough.

“It should stop now. Not three years from now. It should stop now” said Ingrid Newkirk, PETA president.

The elephant has been the symbol of the circus since 1882, when P.T. Barnum added the first Asian elephant to his traveling circus show.

Decades later, Feld Entertainment says its remaining 13 performing elephants will retire at a 200-acre center for elephant conservation in central Florida.

Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus is scheduled to visit Baltimore at the end of this month. The elephants will be in that show. But once they’re phased out in three years, ticket holders will see more motorsports and daredevil stunts.

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Animals will still be included in the circus. Feld Entertainment says it’s keeping all of its performing tigers, dogs and goats.