Life in a zoo is no life at all for an elephant. These animals are highly complex, both socially and emotionally, and life in a barren enclosure causes many elephants to suffer serious stress. While some zoos may contribute in small ways to conservation projects, the vast majority of animals in these facilities are born in captivity and never returned to their native habitats. The truth is that zoos exist primarily for profit. Just like SeaWorld and other marine parks, for zoos, the interests of animals usually comes second to attracting visitors and making money.

But times are changing. Mendoza Zoological Park in Argentina has officially signed a deal with the Secretary of Environment to voluntarily send its four resident elephants to South America’s first elephant sanctuary, Elephant Sanctuary Brazil. You may remember this zoo in particular for keeping Arturo, the world’s saddest polar bear captive in terrible conditions. The Mendoza Zoological Park understandably faced international outrage and pleas to move Arturo to a facility in Canada but sadly, Arturo passed away before anything could be done. But Arturo’s life wasn’t in vain. Now four elephants will leave their confines and head to the Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, 2,800 acres in the state of Mato Grosso, to live out their lives.

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Pocha, who is 43-years-old, is one of the elephants who will be going to Elephant Sanctuary Brazil. She was previously kept in the zoo’s Asian elephant exhibit, which Elephant Sanctuary Brazil compared to a “concrete rat’s maze” with high walls that don’t allow them to see anything except for the sky over their heads.

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Guillermina is Pocha’s 18-year-old daughter and has never experienced life beyond the zoo’s concrete walls. But now she will thrive at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil. 

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The other two elephants who will be taken to Elephant Sanctuary Brazil are named Kenia and Tamy and we currently don’t have much information about them. But at least for now, we can celebrate that these four amazing elephants will soon leave behind the unnatural habitat of the zoo. 

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This rescue will be no small feat. According to Global Sanctuary for Elephants, the sanctuary is working on building two more Elephant Care Centers, one each for the male Asian elephant and the African elephant. Fences will also need to be built to prepare for the elephants’ arrival.

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Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, which is run by Scott Blais, who co-founded the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and founded the Global Sanctuary for Elephants, officially took in their first two elephants, Maia and Guida, in October and is working towards rescuing other elephants in need. It’s estimated that at least 50 more elephants in South America are being kept in substandard conditions and zoos or by private owners, who use the elephants as performers.

We have the choice to show our respect for animals by letting them live a natural life, rather than contributing to an institution that breeds them for a life in captivity. You can make a difference in the lives of animals, by choosing animal-friendly alternatives to zoos, such as admiring animals in the wild, at sanctuaries or on television.

Image Source: Global Sanctuary for Elephants/Facebook