Around 30 Asian elephants, who once unwillingly performed for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, will soon permanently relocate to the safety and comfort of the newly-constructed White Oak Conservation sanctuary near Jacksonville, Fla.

The retired pachyderms will have 2,500 acres of space to roam, socialize, and engage in other natural behaviors as they spend their remaining years in Yulee on the banks of the St. Marys River.

Since retiring from the circus in 2016, the majestic creatures have lived at the Center for Elephant Conservation (CEC) in Polk City, Fla., owned by Feld Entertainment, the circus’s parent company. Though it’s better than circus life, the animals still spend the night in chains and are controlled by fear with bullhooks.

The elephants range in age from a few years to over 70 years old, according to National Geographic, and cannot return to the wild after spending most, or all, of their lives in captivity.

The first group of elephants is slated to arrive at White Oak early next year, around the same time that the habitat, owned by philanthropists Mark and Kimbra Walter, should be completed. There will be an adjustment period for the new residents, many of whom are accustomed to isolation and have never foraged for their own food. Unfortunately, some elephants will spend the rest of their lives at the CEC due to their age and inability to acclimate to the new environment.

In 2017, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ended after being in business for 146 years, due to an increased awareness of how performing animals are treated in these cruel businesses. This comes as good news as the world’s Asian elephant population stands at half its previous capacity, with just 20,000 to 40,000 remaining in the wild.

Lady Freethinker applauds the efforts of activists and conservationists who fought to give these elephants a much-deserved second chance at a life in the most natural environment possible.