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Ex-circus elephants start arriving at Florida sanctuary

Former circus elephants are starting to arrive at a new wildlife sanctuary in North Florida

YULEE, Florida – Former circus elephants are starting to arrive at a new wildlife sanctuary in northern Florida.

The White Oak Conservation Center announced on Monday that a dozen female Asian elephants have already arrived at Yulee refuge, located north of Jacksonville. Another 20 elephants are expected as soon as more areas are completed in the planned 2,500-acre (1,010-hectare) space.

Pachyderms come from the Elephant Conservation Center in Polk County. Most animals have traveled with the Ringling Bros Circus. and Barnum & Bailey until they were retired in 2016.

Nick Newby, who leads the elephant care team, has known each of them and their habits for the past few years.

“Watching the elephants go into the habitat was an incredible time,” said Newby in a statement. “I was very happy to see them go out together and calm down and comfort themselves, just like the wild elephants, and then go out and explore their new environment. Seeing the elephants swimming for the first time was incredible. “

Elephants will eventually have access to nine interconnected areas that will include a variety of types of vegetation and habitat, such as swamps, meadows and forests, a press release said. The center is also building 11 wells and three sheds with veterinary equipment.

Asian elephants are in danger in the wild, officials said. Less than 50,000 remain in nature at less than 15% of their historic extent.

White Oak is owned by philanthropists Mark and Kimbra Walter. The center covers about 17,000 acres (6,880 hectares). It is already home to several endangered species, including rhinos, okapi, bongos, zebras, condors, lady gazelles and cheetahs.

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