Bambi's first step into sanctuary

We hope you will continue to follow Bambi as she begins her new life at sanctuary in the company of her new sisters.

Our deepest gratitude to everyone who supported Bambi’s rescue with your dollars, shares, and tweets.  Your compassion and generosity has made her life at sanctuary possible.

Bambi rescue map


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Bambi at sanctuary!

Bambi on her journey

Saturday (day of arrival at sanctuary)


Thursday (day we left the zoo)

Bambi at the zoo








If we haven’t answered your question here, please feel free to contact us at

How long is Bambi’s journey?

The distance from the zoo in Ribierão Preto to Elephant Sanctuary Brazil is 790 miles (1,270 kilometers) and will require two full days of travel.

What occurs during the journey?

Many interesting things! The ESB team usually begin rescue day early in the morning, before the sun comes up when the site is cooler and quieter. Once Bambi is inside her container, we will load the container onto the truck with a crane and carefully secure it. Then, we hit the road!

Bambi will not be chained for the journey; she will be able to move freely within the dimensions of the container we designed specifically for elephants—so that they can’t lay down or turn around for their own safety.

Can Bambi lie down during transport?

People often express concern for elephants having to stand for an extended period of time during rescues, but it is important to know that many elephants in captivity don’t lay down for years. It is a vulnerable position for elephants who may not trust an elephant enclosure-mate or caregiver, or because they are scared they won’t be able to stand back up due to a physical ailment.

We don’t know if Bambi lays down now at all, but she will be able to lean on the back gate and sidewalls of the container. And the camera mounted inside the container will help us to keep an eye on her comfort level throughout the duration of the trip.

What is time on the road like?

Unless we detect a need to stop for the elephant, our usual driving schedule includes stops around every two hours to refresh water and food/produce and clean out waste. During the day, we’ll look for gas stations with adequate sun coverage to keep the elephant nice and cool. At the end of the night, we stop for several hours, depending on the behavior of the elephant, so their bodies can relax from the movement on the road. Some brace their bodies more for curves and hills and need an extended break from the road.

Why aren’t you flying Bambi?

The airport located nearest the sanctuary is not an option to land at, because it is not international and cannot accommodate the size of plane needed to carry an elephant, and the length of the runway and weight limit also do not meet requirements. The closest airport she could land at is the one she would also have to take off from.

In addition, the takeoff and landing of an airplane can be stressful for an elephant. While they generally do well on the road because many of them have been transported this way due to a life lived on the road. For example, Bambi is an ex-circus elephant, so road travel is nothing new to her and she is expected to do well.

Is driving safe?

While we can’t fly, we do have the good fortune of the escort of a wonderful police team who make road travel as easy as possible. They watch over our caravan and ensure our safety and smooth sailing every step of the way. With two cars, the police will send one ahead to handle the red tape of the next border checkpoint, so that when Bambi arrives, she barely has to stop.

Will Bambi’s caregivers be going with her?

Due to COVID-19 precautions, we are keeping boots on the ground as minimal as possible, and Bambi’s caregivers from the zoo will not be part of the transport. And our team will not be flying into São Paulo; instead, everyone is driving to reduce exposure. Safety not only for Bambi, but for the team, is paramount.

While Bambi’s caregivers from the zoo will not accompany her to the sanctuary, several ESB team members will be present with Bambi throughout her trip, including Scott and our veterinarian Trish.

What will the team do along the way?

The responsibilities of our team members will be treating Bambi with probiotics before travel to improve the health of her GI tract, offering her fresh water and food produce during stops, and keeping her hydrated with juicy fruits and veggies and Gatorade as needed. We are committed to the freshest, highest-quality food for our elephants, often stopping along the way to purchase from local produce sellers or cut banana leaves and grass.

Our team also travels with a first aid kit that includes traditional medicines, IV fluids and lines, and other injectables, as well as behavior essential oils and flower essences. Elephants are extraordinarily scent-oriented, and we have found that these aromatherapies help to soothe anxiety for many passengers.

What training is required?

Like our other transfers, our team will arrive at the zoo 3–4 days prior to moving Bambi and set up her container, fully opened, near the boundary of her enclosure. This will allow Bambi to explore it on her own time with no pressure from us—smell it, touch it, push on it, bump into it. Most elephants venture partially into the container on day one; it feeds their curiosity in an otherwise unchanging environment.

Over the next couple of days, we will place food and extra nice snacks in the container, where she can relax inside over a tasty meal. Eventually, we’ll close just the inside gate behind her for a short time, then incrementally increasing times to gauge her reaction and comfort level.

Bambi is blind in one eye, due to natural age-related causes we believe, so she may be extra sensitive to loud noises, but we are not constrained to the hard timelines of international travel like we were with Ramba and can proceed at Bambi’s pace if she is stressed for any reason. Bambi is also an ex-circus elephant, so road travel is nothing new to her.

Because Bambi is coming to the sanctuary from within Brazil, no physical testing is required. This means she will not need to be trained to acquire samples.

Will Bambi be sedated for travel?

No, we never sedate elephants for transport. Because of their sensitivity and intelligence, we have found they do much better when they are alert and aware of everything going on around them. Scott has transported approximately 50 non-sedated elephants in his career, and all have gone well. Bambi is also an ex-circus elephant who traveled throughout South America for decades, so being on the road is not new to her.

What is the cost?

We approximate the cost of Bambi’s rescue to be around $19,500. This total includes the coverage of truck drivers, a truck rental to carry Bambi’s container (empty and occupied), crane rentals for the zoo and sanctuary, transportation for ESB caregivers, and food for Bambi.

We are requesting the donation of in-kind services where possible such as the trucks and cranes donated by local businesses, etc.

When will she meet the other elephants?

As always, we mostly leave that up to the elephant. We expect Bambi to arrive at ESB in the evening. We will unload her immediately, and she will stay in the open-air barn by herself for the night. Elephants arriving at sanctuary will usually dust first, because they feel dirty from being on the road, followed by a drink or bath, and then take a nap.

In the morning, Bambi will determine her next steps. We may have one elephant come up to the opposite side of the fence, careful not to overwhelm her. The new elephant’s experience is completely customized; everything functions on her time—no expectations, no set schedules. Because Bambi is blind in one eye, she may need a little more time to feel comfortable and confident around the other elephants, but that is okay. We will let her determine how introductions progress.