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Philanthropists Help 35 Circus Elephants Retire in Beautiful Sanctuary



  • A 2500-acre Florida reserve has become the new home of 35 retired circus elephants.
  • Philanthropists Mark and Kimbra Walter helped make it happen through their family-based charity organization.
  • Raised in captivity, the elephants are not capable of surviving the wild, but they can happily spend their retirement among nature in the beautiful sanctuary.

After years of performing for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, 35 Asian elephants are now retiring at a beautiful sanctuary.

The elephants now call the 2500-acre White Oak Conservation refuge in Yulee, Florida, home. Here, the elephants spend their retirement happily by wandering among natural habitats — be it the wetlands, forests, or grasslands — and splash about in 11 different waterholes.

These newly retired elephants will become the largest herd of Asian elephants in the Western Hemisphere.

The refuge, spanning 4 square miles, is the best home for them. Raised in captivity, they’re incapable of surviving in the wild. But in this sanctuary, they still get to enjoy being around nature.

Philanthropists Mark and Kimbra Walter helped this project come to fruition through their family-based charity organization, TWF.

They said, “We are thrilled to give these elephants a place to wander and explore.”

Photo Credit: White Oak Conservation

TWF’s Michelle Gadd told National Geographic, “It is a chance for us to let them return to just being elephants in a situation that is as close to the wild as we can make.”

The elephants, which were previously housed at the Ringling Center for Elephant Conservation (CEC) in Polk County, Florida, first spent a period of adjustment. After they had learned to socialize and catch up on herd and family dynamics, the first batch was transported in pairs for the 200-mile journey to their new home.

Photo Credit: White Oak Conservation

On May 3, the first batch arrived at the sanctuary, where another group of 20 will join them soon.

White Oaks’ elephant care lead Nick Newby shared how incredible it was to witness the elephants slowly exploring the habitat.


“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,” he said. “Seeing the elephants swim for the first time was amazing.”

Michelle, who also oversees the Walters’ conservation efforts, added, “Elephants are such amazing creatures, and we are pleased to give them a place where they will flourish.”

Photo Credit: White Oak Conservation

She also expressed their excitement upon seeing the elephants finally adapting “to the great outdoors, tasting new plants, exploring new areas, experiencing new things.”

Retirement sure looks wonderful for these elephants!

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Source: Good News Network