From the beginning we said that we would keep you informed of the highs and the lows of sanctuary development, but recently we’ve been a little quite, mostly because we have been in a constant state of flux.
Through the past couple of months we’ve had days of tremendous excitement, on the cusp of making a grand property announcement. All we needed was one more bit of information-only to have that last piece of the puzzle evaporate at the last moment. As one door closed, and before we could send out an update, another door opened, even better than the one before. Again, we would be on the precipice of making an announcement, and once again it fell through at the last second. We spent extra time searching for a solution for the most recent property because it was truly remarkable, so much so that it caused some of our board members to be at a loss for words when they viewed the photos. We had hoped and planned for this to be our holiday surprise, substantial acreage, incredibly low price, secluded, abundant wildlife, diverse…I could go on and on about this land. Despite the tremendous efforts of our growing team of professionals, advisors and legal counsel, including the landowners and their lawyers, unfortunately no quick solution could be found. The law in Brazil is structured in such a way that it will take 2-3 years before we could legally use this land, time the elephants simple don’t have.
There were several reasons for these properties not working out; on one occasion the owner backed out at the 11th hour and another we discovered on closer examination that the fellow didn’t actually own all of the land he was trying to sell (he was unaware that the property was not his to sell). We have learned that in many regions in Brazil, it is not uncommon for people to sell or trade land without registering the official exchange. These situations can be worked through as long as there is a paper trail back to a registered owner. Here in Northern Mato Grosso, and in several areas in the Brazilian frontier, just south of the Amazon, where the land is ideal for elephants, many properties have never been registered so they are essentially still government owned. There are many details with the registration process, restrictions of use for agricultural production, taxes, authorities specifying how much land needs to be in production, restrictions against reselling or leasing the land for a number of years etc. Sadly much of this leads to incredible deforestation, turning the lush jungle into farms. The authority that is responsible for registering land encourages this while other facets of government are trying to protect lands. It is without a doubt a new world for us; one that we have gained tremendous knowledge about and to our surprise much of what we have learned is quite foreign even to many Brazilians.
Since our arrival here, our team has grown tremendously. Everyone that we talk to, even with our very broken Portuguese, walks away from the conversation saying, “Yes elephants need this.” During a 7 hour property search adventure with a father and son, the conversations were filled with charades and many times saying, “um momento por favor” while I tried to find the right words from my limited Portuguese vocabulary to answer questions about elephants and explain why sanctuary is needed. At the end of the day, the father, named Basso, slowed the car, turned to look directly at me and said, “I am now an advocate for elephants. We need to make this happen, for the elephants.”
This town, this region and the people that we have met here are incredible, so much support everywhere we turn, and everyone wants this to work. Unfortunately they often want it to work so badly that they will frequently say, “No-problem we can do it” when the truth is that they really don’t know. No one that has started a sanctuary would ever say it is easy, some would even say that we’re crazy for starting a new sanctuary. This process is filled with struggles, tremendously long days, countless hurdles and often deep frustrations. But at the end of the day, all that matters is the elephants. They need sanctuary and we know that we have the knowledge, devoted partners and thanks to you, we have the support to bring it to fruition.
Now we have called on our growing network of support to search far and wide for the future site of Elephant Sanctuary Brazil. We know that another door will open soon and when the first elephant takes the first steps on sanctuary ground all of these struggles will be replaced with unrestrained joy as we watch the smiles return to the lives of elephants.
2015 will be fast and furious!
Our expanded sanctuary land search opportunities cannot come too soon – as we recently learned of two more elephants in desperate need of sanctuary. The only way we can secure their positive future is to be prepared to hit the ground running in 2015.
Funding is essential to both securing the best land option and quickly building phase I of development (fencing, shelter, electricity and plumbing) so that we can open our doors for Ramba and the first 4-6 elephants to come to sanctuary. The faster we secure funding – the faster we can build the life these elephants have only dreamed about. Help us give back.
Donate now to Elephant Sanctuary Brazil – all contributions go toward the down payment on the land and our first phase of development.
To view some of the highlights of the dozens of properties we’ve explored – click here – These photos encourage us that the right property is out there just over the next hill.
With eternal gratitude for your support, helping to give captive elephants the life they deserve,