The Big Apple Circus announced Monday that it has filed for relief in federal bankruptcy court after an attempt to “Save the Circus” fell short of its fundraising goal,

The annual one-ring performance under the Big Top will be cancelled for the first time in nearly 40 years, unless the circus can find a buyer or new financial support emerges, circus management said in a news release.

The circus has debts estimated at $8.3 million and assets of about $3.8 million, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, which cited documents filed in bankruptcy court.

The nonprofit circus launched a “Save the Circus” campaign in June, but failed to raise enough cash to avoid a Chapter 11 filing.

“Despite receiving contributions from more than 1,400 donors, the Big Apple Circus fell short of its fundraising goal and made the difficult decision not to proceed with the upcoming performance season,” management said.

Circus executives said they intend to continue to operate some of this community programs, such as Clown Care, in which performers visit children in pediatric hospitals, and Vaudeville Visits, which entertains people living in residential care facilities.

The circus was founded in 1977 and has entertained millions of people at its home in Lincoln Center and on tour.

"We are eternally grateful for the support provided by audiences and donors over almost 40 years, and to all of the artists, crew, staff, and Clown Doctors who have provided joy, wonder, and inspiration to so many,” Executive Director Will Maitland Weiss said in a news release. "We are working to ensure that the spirit of the Big Apple Circus will live on."

In 2008, the Big Apple Circus performed more than 350 shows and generated more than $18 million in revenue. Attendance declined in the years that followed.

The circus’ decision comes on the heels of a proposal by city council to ban performances by exotic animals in the city. The proposal was vigorously criticized by circus operators.