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Mundi, a 41-year-old female elephant, who spent 35 years in isolation at Mayaguez Zoo in Puerto Rico, has been relocated to her forever home at Elephant Refuge North America (ERNA) in Attapulgus, Georgia. The elephant, orphaned and captured from the wild at an early age, has been exploited for decades for visitor entertainment at the zoo.

The mission to rescue and relocate Mundi was orchestrated by non-profit organizations World Animal Protection (WAP), Wild Animal Sanctuary and Elephant Aid International (EAI). ERNA, managed by EAI, spans over 850 acres, featuring an ideal climate, rolling hills, forests, lakes, and streams, where elephants can roam freely most of the year.

The sanctuary, housing retired zoo and circus elephants, focuses on the animals’ needs, providing individualized care considering their past traumas. Mundi is now the third resident of this haven, designed to accommodate up to ten elephants.

“Mundi’s life at the sanctuary will be rich with freedom and autonomy in a habitat that echoes her natural environment,” said Lindsay Oliver of World Animal Protection, U.S. She further assured that Mundi would never again be subjected to perform for spectators.

The eight-foot-tall, 8,000-pound elephant with a calm and curious demeanor is known for her fondness of pineapple, watermelon, and broccoli. Mundi was among 63 African savannah elephants orphaned during a mass culling by the Zimbabwean government in 1984. These elephants were later bought and transported to Florida by millionaire Arthur Jones before being sold to various zoos, circuses, and individuals.

Mundi was kept in isolation at Mayaguez Zoo in Puerto Rico since 1988, in a tiny space slightly larger than a quarter of an acre. Following Hurricane Maria in 2017, the zoo had to shut down and eventually lost its exhibitor’s license due to multiple violations, including insufficient veterinary care and poor living conditions.

With the permanent closure of the zoo in February 2023, the Department of Justice agreed to relocate the animals, and ERNA accepted Mundi. She was flown from Puerto Rico to Florida before being trucked to the sanctuary in Georgia, a journey covering approximately 1,400 miles.

Unfortunately, re-introducing Mundi to the wild in Africa wasn’t feasible. “Her life of captivity has likely inhibited her ability to successfully integrate into a fully wild environment,” explained Oliver. However, her successful relocation provides hope for countless wild animals still exploited by the entertainment and tourism industries.

“World Animal Protection is proud to partner with Elephant Aid International to give Mundi a natural environment to roam freely. While we celebrate Mundi’s freedom, we continue our fight against animal exploitation,” Oliver affirmed.

Echoing this sentiment, Carol Buckley, President and CEO of Elephant Aid International, expressed her joy at Mundi’s arrival and her commitment to advocating for other animals still suffering in captivity.

Read and learn more about why zoos are not happy places for animals:

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