Incredible, energizing, encouraging and humbling- when things in life come together just as they are supposed to, is it a remarkable feeling. To backtrack just a little, Global Sanctuary for Elephants visited Brazil in December of 2013 to explore more thoroughly the potential and possible limitations of developing a sanctuary for elephants in Brazil; a new international project dedicated to offering a progressive, holistic, expansive alternative for captive elephants from throughout South America.
After exploring several regions and specific properties, we left Brazil feeling confident not only that this was a viable option but also one that was grossly necessary. As things turned out, the properties we had explored were removed from our list for a variety of reasons but in the background our time here had put a chain of events into action. The wonderful network of a friend of a friend, a few phone calls, combined with the undeniable fate and the incredible generosity of a local land owner Mr. Leo (pronounced lay-oh) have lead us here, to Guarantã do Norte a small city at the Northern border of the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil.
Mr. Leo has lived in this region for many years and is one of the people responsible for helping establish Guarantã in the late 1960’s When talking to all of those that have had a hand in this process, they all seem to chuckle a little; they all immediately questioned and even doubted the idea, but very quickly realized how perfectly our desires, the needs of the elephants, and the gifts of this region could meld. Mr. Leo told us this week that he had been approached by others to use his land, but that he always knew that there would be a greater purpose for his property. Now, he has graciously offered it up to be the future home of Elephant Sanctuary Brazil! We can’t say enough about his kind heart and what his immeasurable gift means for elephants.
This remote region is simply amazing, here in Guarantã do Norte we are surrounded by farmlands and miles and miles of cattle farms and crops. Leaving here and driving north, the elevation increases as you enter into the Serra Do Cachimbo mountains; it is a gorgeous, lush and wild forest that crosses into the state of Para. This entire region is the transition from Amazon jungle to Savannah, known in Brazil as Cerrado, which comprises much of the central part of the country. This transitional biome is a mix of amazon forest near the rivers and streams, and amazon savannah with moderate trees and shrubs on the hilltops. Mr. Leo’s property in southern Para, a little more than an hour from Guarantã, is a combination of these, to the west is a stream that is engulfed by an incredible forest, to the east is amazon savannah; sandy soil but equally incredible for vastly different reasons. There are advantages and disadvantages to the full array and diverse aspects of this land.
This past week we were joined by our partners Junia Machado, CEO of Elephant Sanctuary Brazil and Petter Granli, co-founder of ElephantVoices for our arrival and introduction to this incredibly welcoming town and beautiful region of Brazil. We have all been truly amazed and further inspired by our experience. The four of us, along side Mr. Leo, explored his property on a day that will be remembered for some time to come; not only for the beauty of the property, but to see and experience how everyone on our team is thinking about the entirety of the project. In these situations it’s easy to get lost in the emotion, thinking about elephants finding peace and sanctuary, but we need to consider all of the elements of sanctuary, the short-term needs and long term survival. We explored access to the land, infrastructure needs, bridges, roads, and security. We walked for several kilometers, identified several types of resident animal footprints and asked Mr. Leo many, many questions. At the end of the day we shared very similar thoughts, we all believed that it can work but it’s not perfect. The next day, we met with key officials, all welcoming us with open arms, all anxious to help but fully aware and committed to the concept that this is all about the elephants; their needs come first and our commitment is for the long haul. Later in the afternoon we met with additional knowledgeable professionals, veterinarians, and agronomists to help us explore solutions to some of our concerns with particular focus on the sandy soil prominent in some of the land. And once again, we received many answers, not just a simple answer of “We can fix it,” but thorough and detailed discussions about an array of options. They asked for details about elephant behavior and environmental impact, eating habits and appropriate types of pasture grasses. Some in the US may question motivation for a rural community to help, but to us and anyone that talks to those involved, it is abundantly clear- they know that this important project will help put their town on the international map, but first and foremost, everyone knows- the elephants need this!
What’s next? Our board of directors of Global Sanctuary for Elephants, the board of Elephants Sanctuary Brazil and our partner ElephantVoices, are continuing to explore the attributes of the land. So many things are pointing in the right direction and we all want to start building sanctuary now, but we all recognize that in order to meet the long-term needs of the elephants, we must remain diligent and turn over unturned stones to explore every aspect.
This week, we will continue to examine“ development costs and options. Hopefully we’ll drive back north to walk the property again, viewing it with the added information from these past few days. There is no doubt that we could not have found a more receptive community. When combined with the undeniable generosity of Mr. Leo, a stunning property, and an ideal climate; it all looks quite promising. Stay tuned and keep sharing our posts and blogs to continue to expand our growing network of support; this is just the beginning.