A far cry from the life of cages and tricks, these elephants will be free to roam the conservation, which has been built to replicate their native habitat as closely as possible.
“We are thrilled to give these elephants a place to wander and explore,” said Mark and Kimbra Walter, the philanthropists who funded the conservation.
“We are working to protect wild animals in their native habitats. But for these elephants that can’t be released, we are pleased to give them a place where they can live comfortably for the rest of their lives.”
Conservationist Michelle Gadd, who is overseeing the project, was thrilled to see the former performing elephants in their new home.
“A lot of kids have this dream of running away and joining the circus,” she told CBS News. “Well, I was that kid who wanted to run away and let all the animals out of the circus.”
“They don’t need to be ridden or trained or do tricks or travel the world. Just let them be where they are and there’s nothing more beautiful than that.”
As part of the plan to phase out elephants from the circus, former Ringling Bros. elephants were moved to the Center of Elephant Conservation in Florida, which their company sponsored. But according to CBS, the nonprofit Walter Conservation bought the elephants last Fall to move them to a bigger sanctuary.
To get to their new home, they were transported 200 miles in customized trucks, accompanied by vets and animal care specialists, White Oak explained.
And once they arrived, they quickly began socializing.
“Watching the elephants go out into the habitat was an incredible moment,” said Nick Newby, leader of the sanctuary’s team.
“I was so happy to see them come out together and reassure and comfort each other, just like wild elephants do, and then head out to explore their new environment. Seeing the elephants swim for the first time was amazing.”
“They seem to have sorted out a hierarchy amongst themselves,” Gadd told CBS News.
“They regrouped right outside the fence and again reassured each other. Rumbled, touched each other, put their trunks in one another’s mouths.”
Meanwhile, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has since closed for good. They performed their final show on May 21, 2017.
We’re so glad these elephants were freed from the circus and now have a chance to live free, in a natural environment with others of their kind.