On October 11, Guida and Maia, two female Asian elephants that had been “retired” from the same circus, became the first residents of the Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, which is the first sanctuary for captive elephants in Latin America.
The two elephants are over 40 years old, and they had spent most of their lives performing in a circus in the state Minas Gerais. After they became too old to perform, the circus sent them to a local farm. For the past five years, the owners kept them in chains. While they occasionally released Guida, they considered Maia too aggressive and untrustworthy and hence kept her restrained at all times.
Elephant Sanctuary Brazil was established by the non-profit Global Sanctuary for Elephants, which is based in the United States. Ever since 2012, the organization has been working to help captive elephants. It bought an old cattle ranch in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso to serve as their pilot project. The ranch had 2800 acres, and there are springs, forests, creeks and pastures on the property. The elephants will also receive veterinary care.
There are over 50 elephants in South America, and many countries there are starting to ban circuses. As the circuses close, or the elephants get too old to perform, they will need to go to a sanctuary. Releasing captive elephants into the African wilderness is not an option, for they would not survive.
Scott Blais, the chief executive of Global Sanctuary for Elephants, has extensive experience in developing and operating elephant sanctuaries. In 1995, he helped establish an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee. He has reported that the elephants are “completely thriving,” and they have not shown any signs of aggression towards each other.