Though Ingo has worked with elephants for decades, his transport of Pocha and Guillermina from Mendoza to Brazil was his first with Global Sanctuary for Elephants. For that reason, we asked him to share some of his thoughts about the experience – what it was like, how he felt, and what he took away from it on a personal level:
“It is somewhat sad to think about, but also one of the best parts of the experience was that after all these years of waiting and struggling, after all these efforts (for the girls, probably even more than for us), a huge change for the girls finally became true. Their ‘living space’ back at the zoo (turned ecoparque) can be stated as one of the smallest, coldest, and most elephant-unfriendly ones worldwide and, fortunately, is something of the past now as well. It was not only (and urgently) about time, but also more than fair to give them a chance for something new, a place where an elephant – after decades of extreme confinement – can finally act out all of its natural behaviors and needs.
This rescue has been the first of its kind for me, regarding the amount of people involved in and accompanying the transport. Some people didn’t know each other and met during the process – but definitely it was teamwork at its best.
It was a long trip and sleepless nights, but the girls did well. We never know how elephants react on transports in general – if there might come an emergency situation or something similar. This is why some of us have been – let’s call it – ‘positively nervous’ during the entire trip. The same type of nervous (while attentive and carefully observing) that can keep you from sleeping, but feeling good at the same time. We found it wonderful that it was technically possible to place both crates on one truck, enabling the girls to communicate with each other during the entire trip. But like the girls, the team did great as well, with lots of respect towards the elephants and each other, empathy, active support from each individual, the happiness, good moods and vibrations and, above all this, specific dedication. We had lots of things to do and we always expect the unexpected. There were some headaches, but also lots of fun and stupid jokes – the kind that happen when you’re really tired.
I am especially proud of this team and happy for this transfer because ego and narcissism did not take the lead- it was truly about the elephants. Thus I am even more happy as the entire process of Pocha and Guillermina’s transfer happened to be smooth, and the final destination is true sanctuary. I know that the girls finally get their chance to live as free as possible under natural conditions and within a vast environment, learning autonomy, and socializing with lots of others from the same species.
It was one of these unforgettable moments after arrival, when the girls had been united again after coming out of their transport crates, watching them splashing sand on their bodies continuously, without us saying not one word – just observing and without interacting. Just letting them be elephants.”