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One of America's largest circus companies has said it will phase out the use of elephants in its shows.

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus told that it plans to stop using the animals by 2018.

It said growing public concern about how the animals are treated led to the decision.

The company's 43 elephants will live at an animal conservation centre in Florida.

The circus will continue to use other animals - such as lions, tigers, horses, camels, and dogs - in its performances.

In recent years, some cities and counties have passed laws banning the use of elephants for entertainment, which has complicated the show's tours, company president Kenneth Feld.

Animal right activists have protested the use of the elephants in live shows for years saying they face physical abuse at the hands of trainers and unhealthy living conditions.

"Many of the elephants are painfully arthritic, and many have tuberculosis, so their retirement day needs to come now," said Jessica Johnson, a spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "If the decision is serious, then the circus needs to do it now."