A group of 35 elephants, formerly part of the Ringling Bros Circus, have been given a new lease on life in a verdant habitat at Florida’s White Oak Conservation Center.
These Asian elephants, the largest group in the Western hemisphere, were previously subjected to harsh conditions and forced to perform in the circus.
The first 12 young elephants were transferred to the conservation center, making the dream of passionate conservationist Michelle Gadd come true.
Gadd reminisced about her childhood dreams, saying, “I was the one who wanted to run away and release all the animals from the circus.”
For 146 years, Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey’s circus featured elephants as part of their acts, despite ongoing opposition to the inhumane treatment these majestic creatures faced.
Initially, the rescued elephants were taken to a small sanctuary in Orlando before Walter Conservation stepped in to create a more extensive habitat for all 35 elephants.
The elephants can roam, bond, and establish their social hierarchy. Gadd observed the elephants interacting, describing how they reassured each other by “roaring, touching, and putting their trunks in each other’s mouths.”
She affectionately dubbed the two oldest elephants “mean girls,” although she admits they might be bossy.
Gadd hopes that people will come to appreciate the elephants’ beauty without exploiting them for entertainment.
She believes “leaving them in their rightful place” is the most beautiful thing to witness.
Since these elephants have been raised to rely on humans, releasing them into the wild is not an option.
The sanctuary provides them with a natural and complex environment, giving these animals the best life possible outside the wild.
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