Elephant Isolated in Captivity for 35 Years Makes Friends Instantly at New Sanctuary Home
Mundi the 41-year-old African savannah elephant, spent 35 years alone at the Mayaguez Zoo in Puerto Rico before the park's closure
Mundi is ready for her fresh start.
The 41-year-old female African savannah elephant has spent most of her life in captivity. According to World Animal Protection, Mundi was orphaned at a young age, captured, trained, and sold into the entertainment industry.
She eventually ended up at the Mayaguez Zoo — also known as the Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo — in Puerto Rico, where she spent the last 35 years in isolation. The tides began to change for Mundi n 2018 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture canceled the zoo's exhibitor license due to multiple violations. In February, the zoo permanently closed, and in March, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Puerto Rico Department of Environment and Natural Resources announced an agreement to have the "approximately 500 animals" housed at the zoo relocated 'to facilities that are equipped and prepared to humanely and appropriately house and care for the animals."
Elephant Refuge North America (ERNA) agreed to take Mundi to its sanctuary in Attapugus, Georgia. World Animal Protection partnered with the Wild Animal Sanctuary and Elephant Aid International to assist with Mundi's safe transportation from Puerto Rico to Georgia.
"We are thrilled that Mundi will be coming to live at Elephant Refuge North America and are grateful to World Animal Protection for joining us in her rescue. Mundi has suffered in captivity her entire life, and we look forward to caring for her and giving her the life she deserves," Carol Buckley, Elephant Aid International's founder, president, and CEO, said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
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For the trip, Mundi rode on a chartered 747 flight from Puerto Rico to Jacksonville, Florida.The elephant arrived at the Jacksonville airport on the afternoon of May 12 and then was driven to ERNA in Georgia. World Animal Protection monitored the trip and shared that the journey went smoothly.
Mundi arrived at her new sanctuary home by nightfall on May 12 and was given time and space to adjust to her new surroundings. In the days following her arrival, the elephant got to know the sanctuary's other elephants. After 35 years without a friend, Mundi seemed comfortable and content to be around elephants again.
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Once Mundi fully acclimates to her new home, she will have access to its 850 acres of lush nature, spring-fed lake, and unlimited outdoor time.
World Animal Protection and Mundi's other rescuers hope the elephant's story inspires others to keep animals out of the entertainment industry.
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"World Animal Protection is proud to partner with Elephant Aid International to bring Mundi to her new home at Elephant Rescue North America, where she now has the freedom to roam in a natural environment. We're thrilled for Mundi, but there are still thousands of wild animals used for entertainment, and we'll continue to fight until every animal is free from exploitation," Lindsay Oliver, the executive director of World Animal Protection U.S., shared.
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