Global Rumblings - October 2023

Interview: A trip to Elephant Sanctuary Brazil

photo: Sandra and her daughter at the Itchy Scratchy Tree

This month, we were honored to welcome for the first time, our Global Sanctuary for Elephants Trunks & Treasures “Trip to the Sanctuary”  auction item winner, Sandra, to Elephant Sanctuary Brazil. We asked her if she’d mind corresponding with us for a bit about what sanctuary was like, how it felt to see the elephants she’s supported in actual living color, and just get her thoughts on the experience in general. Here, we share her unedited comments about her visit to ESB. 

What is the first impression you had upon arriving at the sanctuary? 

It is hard to put into words getting to see the sanctuary and the girls in real life. The sanctuary is wild and wonderful.  It was surreal arriving somewhere you have never been before, yet it all felt so familiar thanks to the unmatched transparency from GSE. Soon after entering the sanctuary grounds, we got to see five of the girls in the yard up by the barn, on the way to the sanctuary office. Your heart immediately picks up pace as your eyes dart elephant to elephant figuring out who’s who. Trying to take in every little detail of each elephant in view.

How did seeing the elephants you have loved from afar impact you?

It was a bit overwhelming seeing the girls in person. You cannot help but have your emotions welling up both in seeing their sweet faces in person but also with gratitude for the sanctuary that has given them the opportunity to heal and build these beautiful friendships. I recognized each of the girls immediately, knew which barn was which and even one day got to stand under the much-loved, and a little storm battered, itchy scratchy tree. The girls are each so special and magnificent, dear sweet Rana’s calming, caring nature and empathy for others, Bambi’s heart shaped head and playful spirit, Maia lovely fuzzy head and sleepy morning face, Mara’s beautiful light golden eyes and gorgeous head, Lady’s sweet demeanor and cheeky grin, and Guille’s boundless energy, speed and cute squeaks. The Powerpuff Girls mini-reunion celebrations are so exuberant you can hear them from far away. These wonderful elephants  never should have endured the trauma and exploitation they did in their lives before sanctuary.  Getting to see them finding joy in the simple pleasure of friends, fresh mud after a rain, having a good scratch on a tree or a friend or quietly sneaking away to some secret mangoes the opportunity for healing sanctuary provides them is crystal clear. I came away wanting to do everything I possibly can do to help support the sanctuary and give the girls as much of a natural life as possible. 

What are your feelings now that you’ve visited GSE? 

Scott and Kat are just the most wonderful, genuinely kind human beings on the planet and their combined  knowledge and expertise working with captive elephants is a treasure. I honestly did not think I could respect them more, but I do after getting to spend time with them and seeing the amount of work they do every single day. They have a dedicated care team they work with every day, maintenance staff they oversee and they are actively continuing to work on extending yards and have plans for more expansions. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to visit the sanctuary so appreciative of Scott and Kat generously sharing their time, knowledge, and experience with us.  They answered so many questions. Their understanding of the elephants, ability to listen to them and meet their needs in a way that fully respects their autonomy is inspiring. Anything the elephants need always comes first, always. They live the mission every day in every way and extend that all species at the sanctuary, including native wildlife being rehabilitated for release, and the domestic wildlife that came with the sanctuary. The barns and yards are so well thought out and functional for the elephants’ use of different yards at different times and care staff safety.

photo: Mara & Bambi

Is there anything that surprised you? 

How big the sanctuary really is. I knew the size in acreage but standing on top of the hill and looking across to the next mountains through the valleys and seeing just how BIG and beautiful it is was completely stunning. Also, getting a better grasp on how remote the sanctuary is and its challenges that means the sanctuary has had to manage for every aspect of development and expansion. I am from Florida, but I was very surprised how strong the evening thunderstorms were, although the rains were very welcome. The storms also knocked hundreds of mangoes out of the trees, there were so many mangoes!

If there’s one thing that you want to share about the sanctuary visit, what would it be?  

Trying to condense everything I saw, learned and felt into one thing is hard! I’m still trying to find words to encompass it. I want everyone to know how special the sanctuary is and that it is the model of what true sanctuary should be, where elephants live with true autonomy and they are listened to. The elephants come first in everything they do.It’s the lived experience at GSE. It is everything I expected from posts and following GSE since the early days and the arrival of Maia and Guida, and so much more. The sanctuary is so much MORE  everything – bigger, wilder  and more beautiful than I imagined, the girls more magnificent, charming, endearing and beautiful, Scott and Kat more kind, generous, wonderful and inspiring, and the continued growth and expansion will increase needed support. Seeing the amount of work it takes every day, I came away determined to do more to help support the sanctuary in any way I can. I wish every captive elephant could experience the life the girls enjoy at the sanctuary.