Two elephants explored their new sanctuary free of chains Tuesday, the first of four pairs to arrive as part of the most ambitious relocation effort ever mounted for abused pachyderms, organizers said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. Two elephants explored their new sanctuary free of chains Tuesday, the first of four pairs to arrive as part of the most ambitious relocation effort ever mounted for abused pachyderms, organizers said.
Minnie and Lottie were the first of eight female Asian and African elephants to make the 12-hour trip from northern Illinois inside a custom-built truck trailer to their rural refuge, the Elephant Sanctuary 50 miles southwest of Nashville.
The elephants came to the sanctuary from circus supplier Hawthorn Corp., which settled U.S. charges it mistreated a dozen elephants by agreeing to send them away.
Hawthorn has denied mistreating any animals. The elephants were chained at Hawthorn and at various circuses when they weren't performing.
Some of the sanctuary newcomers will have to be quarantined for up to a year because of exposure to tuberculosis, sanctuary founder Carol Buckley said. All were deemed healthy enough to travel, though one elephant died last month.
One of the freshly unloaded elephants, which has spent much of its life chained or confined, was startled when a sapling it grabbed with its trunk snapped back.
The eight newcomers will eventually join 11 other rescued elephants -- including two originally from Hawthorn -- who live on the sanctuary's secluded 2,700 acres near the town of Hohenwald.
Buckley, who founded the preserve a decade ago after adopting a baby elephant torn from its mother, said the relocated elephants will enjoy "a glorious reunion ... as a family to live out their lives in freedom."
"We had to build a new barn and new fencing and be ready to house and feed guests who eat an awful lot and are coming to stay," Buckley said.
The sanctuary raised $3 million for a new barn for the elephants and estimates it needs $2 million a year to look after the eight.