Thirty retired circus elephants are getting a much-deserved comfortable new home. The Asian elephants, which had been used in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, will be moving to the White Oak conservation center in Florida next year. The center will allocate 2,500 acres of its property to the elephants, which are coming from a 200-acre property owned by Ringling Bros. The circus had committed to phasing out elephant performances in 2015, and retired the last elephants in 2016.
Although it purchased 35 elephants in total, some won’t be able to move to the refuge due to age or medical conditions, but those that stay behind will still be cared for by the conservation center.
The White Oak facility is four square miles of wetlands, meadows, and woods that will give the elephants a diverse landscape in which to live and thrive. It will have 11 watering holes for the elephants to enjoy and three barns stocked with the necessary veterinary equipment so staff can keep the elephants in good health.
Since the elephants have spent their entire lives in captivity, they can’t return to their natural habitat.
Michelle Gadd, who leads global conservation efforts for White Oak, told First Coast News, “Our elephant whisperer Nick [Newby], who’s in charge of the elephant program for us, has been spending his time getting to know these elephants and their social preferences, limitations and physical ailments for the past two years. It’s to see who tolerates each other, who really likes each other, who stays together and gets along well.”
White Oak’s staff hope to return any newborn elephants born in captivity to the wild.