JULY, Florida (AP) – Former circus elephants are starting to arrive at a new wildlife sanctuary in North Florida.
White Oak Conservation Center announced on Monday that a dozen Asian elephants had already arrived at the July shelter north of Jacksonville. Up to 20 more elephants are expected after more of the planned 2,500-acre (1,010-hectare) area is completed.
The pachyderms come from the Elephant Conservation Center in Polk County. Most animals have previously traveled with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus until they retired in 201
Nick Newby, who leads the elephant care team, has learned about individual elephants and their habits over the past few years.
“Watching the elephants go out into the habitat was an amazing moment,” Newby said in a statement. “I was so happy to see them go out together and calm down and comfort themselves, as wild elephants do, and then go explore their new environment. Seeing the elephants swim for the first time was amazing. “
The elephants will eventually have access to nine interconnected areas that will include diverse vegetation and habitat types, such as wetlands, meadows and forests, the news release said. The center is also building 11 holes and three stables with veterinary equipment.
Asian elephants are endangered in the wild, officials said. Less than 50,000 remain in the wild in less than 15% of their historic range.
White Oak is owned by philanthropists Mark and Kimbra Walter. The center covers about 17,000 acres (6,880 hectares). It is now home to several endangered and endangered species, including rhinos, okapi, bongos, zebras, condors, lady gazelles and cheetahs.