Sanctuary offers new home to elephants in Florida

National Elephant Center
via National Elephant Center

The National Elephant Center in Fellsmere, Florida welcomed its first pachyderms in May this year. The group consisted of two adult females and two adolescent males. The National Elephant center is the first elephant sanctuary of its kind, created to by members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to help ensure the long-term survival of both the Asian and African species. African elephants are considered to be vulnerable, and Asian elephants are endangered.

According to the center's website, the 225-acre property has been outfitted with four barns, watering holes, and large meanders for the elephants to explore. The property was once a private citrus grove, and it didn't take long for the new residents to discover the fruit, executive director John Lehnhardt told the AP's Suzette Laboy:

Smelling the trees, [the female Moyo] tried to grab one that kept getting away from her. Finally, she sucked the orange with the end of her trunk and put it in her mouth.

"Then you saw her go, 'Oh my God,' and she started grabbing and shoving oranges down her mouth as fast as she could," Lehnhardt said. Moyo and her companions roamed from row to row, feeding on roughly 300 oranges each a day, until not a single one remained. Come next spring, they'll be at it again.

The center can serve as both a permanent home for elephants who can no longer be cared for by private owners or as temporary lodging for animals from zoos undergoing construction or facing other challenges.

Although the National Elephant Center is not open to the public, you can follow their blog here.

Sanctuary offers new home to elephants in Florida
Created by a board of zoo directors, the National Elephant Center offers a home to displaced elephants.