To provide a safe place for elephants that have spent years living in captivity and performing in circus, Brazil opens Latin America’s first elephant sanctuary to provide a home for an estimated 50 circus animals from across region.
Guida and Maia, both over 40 years old and no longer able to perform, are the first residents. They will be provided with veterinary care and live out their lives in forested areas with pastures.
Blais, CEO of U.S.-based Global Sanctuary for Elephants, and local partners set out to create the sanctuary on a piece of donated land in the northern part of Mato Grosso. This is a state which is known for varied vegetation and a tropical climate that includes summer rains and dry winters. But the absence of deeds for all the land, a problem in rural areas of Brazil, made creating the sanctuary there impossible. So the search continued, finally ending with the purchase of land in the state’s southern part for roughly $1 million to be paid over five years.
What inspires them to take this step after figuring out what to do with aging elephants has become increasingly difficult as their natural habitats come under attack on the two continents they come from. Elephant experts say the animals would not survive if they were simply returned to the wild after living in captivity. The gap is slowly being filled by a handful of sanctuaries in countries like the United States, Thailand and Malaysia.
The sanctuary will not be open for visitors