Mara the elephant is packing for what might be the final trip of her 54-year life spent globe-trotting from India to Germany before joining circuses in Montevideo and Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she has been for the past 25 years.
Now she is readying to say goodbye before a 2,700km trip from Buenos Aires to a new home near the city of Chapada dos Guimaraes, Brazil, a vast specially designed sanctuary for elephants like her.
Mara’s road trip is to take almost a week in an overland convoy, during which time she is to be housed in a huge box and accompanied by caretakers to look after her safety — and that of others.
Guillermo Wiemeyer, a veterinarian who works with Mara, said that the team had been getting her ready for the journey, taking blood tests and cultures to ensure she could travel across borders, and acclimatizing her to the mode of transport.
“What we are hoping is that she will enter the box of her own accord, because she won’t travel under anesthesia or any type of sedative,” he said.
Mara’s new home, the 1,133-hectare Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, would give her more space with pasture land, streams, steep hills and the chance to meet other Asian elephants living in the reserve, Wiemeyer said.
“The environment she lives in will go from being a few thousand square meters to hectares,” he said. “The link with the land, water and other elephants will be incomparable.”
However, saying goodbye is not easy. Mara needs to go through a quarantine period before she travels, likely toward the end of next month, to get the green light from authorities in Argentina and Brazil.
“Logically we have mixed feelings because a bond is built up over so many years of living together,” Wiemeyer said.
“But we are sure that the doors of a new life will be opened where what she will be able to do above all is start making choices for herself, and for us that is fundamental because it’s the first step toward animal welfare,” Wiemeyer said.
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