Elephant Aid International to welcome African elephant Mundi in May

Published 9:27 am Wednesday, March 29, 2023

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Elephant Aid International (EAI) has been home to Asian elephants Bo and Tarra for just over a year now, with Bo arriving first and Tarra following shortly thereafter. However, neither was originally going to be the sanctuary’s first resident; that distinction would have originally gone to Mundi, a 41-year-old female African elephant from Puerto Rico.

Originally born in the wild of Zimbabwe in 1982, a mass-culling left Mundi orphaned, after which she was brought to the United States in ’84 by millionaire Arthur Jones. Mundi was just one of 63 elephants that Jones brought stateside, but all would soon after be sold to zoos, circuses and private individuals, with Mundi being sold to a zoo in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

This zoo struggled financially, and Mundi’s living conditions were hardly ideal, by herself in a relatively small exhibit, and spending her nights restrained with chains. The zoo eventually lost its license, and the animals were all scheduled to be shipped to sanctuaries. By 2018, Mundi was scheduled to come to Attapulgus as EAI’s first resident, but government turmoil led to all sanctuary contracts being cancelled and the animals left in a state of limbo.

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It wouldn’t be until February of this year, thanks to intervention from the US Justice Department, that all animals would finally be able to find their new homes.

According to sanctuary founder Carol Buckley, upon being updated about Mundi’s imminent release, the sanctuary found itself in need of funding to get Mundi here, as she will be flown on a 747 cargo flight in a custom-built crate, from Puerto Rico to Jacksonville. Such an endeavor would be costly; fortunately, Buckley stated that they received a considerable donation to cover it, courtesy of Pat Craig of the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. Buckley herself will travel to Puerto Rico to condition the elephant to the crate for the flight. This won’t be her first time meeting the elephant, as Buckley had previously paid Mundi a visit prior to the initial contract falling through. She described Mundi as, “very sweet, calm, and comfortable around her keepers. Personality-wise, I think she will get along with the other elephants.”

According to Buckley, it used to be common for African and Asian elephants to be kept together. However, when Buckley founded her first sanctuary, the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, she made a policy decision to not keep the two species together, in part based on Tarra’s previous fearful reactions to Africans. However, she stated that Tarra exhibited similar reactions when first being introduced to Asian elephants, and she has since realized that it was more of an individual reaction.

“When you look at our elephants, and look at how they get along with dogs and people, they don’t really see species,” Buckley said. That said, when Mundi does arrive, she will be kept separate from Bo and Tarra until the two feel comfortable with her. Mundi herself stands eight feet tall and weighs a whopping 8,000 pounds. Due to an altercation with another elephant, Mundi has been left blind in one eye, and with a permanently damaged tusk.

With EAI adding a third elephant to the herd, the sanctuary is looking for more help with the coming work. “We are always looking for professionals who are looking to donate their time, whether that’s road grating, or liming our pastures,” Buckley said. Ideally, she said the sanctuary would like to have another full time and part-time caretaker, as well as a groundskeeper capable of tending to the property and the equipment. Business partnerships are also something Buckley is looking for. “Now that we’re getting our third elephant, it would be nice to develop a cooperative relationship with other businesses in the community,” she said. The Sanctuary has recently partnered with The American Tumeric Company out of Thomasville, which supplies them with turmeric, a dietary supplement for staving off arthritis.

Anyone interested in volunteering with or working for EAI can reach them at 229-465-3115.