In 2010, through Junia Machado and other elephant friends in Brazil, ElephantVoices began working for the interests of elephants in Brazil and the South American continent. Part of our effort was to promote and support progressive legislation to end the antiquated practice of performing elephants.
We stated our objectives as:
To create awareness about elephant conservation and the welfare needs of captive elephants in Brazil, and to ensure that a sanctuary for elephants in Brazil and elsewhere in South-America is established.
One might ask, Why Brazil?
During the launch of this initiative we declared that Brazil offers: a perfect climate for elephants; the possibility of obtaining a suitable sized parcel of land with habitat permitting natural foraging and social behavior; the potential to provide a home to the many captive elephants who are suffering in South America; the presence of a team of energized, committed people who want to work hard for the best interest of elephants.
The dire need for an alternative to life in circuses
To get a sanctuary in Brazil up and running was key to discussions about how to end the suffering of elephants currently in circuses and inadequate zoos. Without a good alternative in place for elephants in need of a new home, it would have been difficult to move forward the political process and other challenges in regard to such an ambition.
|In August 2010 Joyce and Petter had a videoconference with Ricardo Tripoli - a Representative in the Congress of Brazil. The objective of this meeting was to create an alliance between ElephantVoices and Congressman Tripoli to help approve the suggested ban of use of animals in circuses throughout Brazil.
ElephantVoices Brasil - Junia and her team of volunteers - continued to gather information about captive elephants in Brazil, and elsewhere in South America, many of whom are kept under terrible conditions. They found that there were about 24 elephants held in Brazilian zoos, and a few held in circuses or chained on rural properties. The total number was estimated to be between 35 and 40 elephants. One of the performing circus elephants, Semba, died in 2012. Another, Lady, was more recently donated to a small zoo, due to the increasing pressure against the use of animals in Brazilian circuses.
In late 2011, in collaboration with Peter Stroud, ElephantVoices launched a document, which outlined our perspectives and overall pinciples on the meaning of Sanctuary for Elephants. Furthermore we had initial discussions with Peter about a possible elephant sanctuary in South America.
The video from the 2010 Ricardo Tripoli conference with ElephantVoices' Joyce and Petter is produced by Tripoli's office.
The above version has subtitles in Portuguese - click here to watch English version.
Moving forward toward a benchmark Sanctuary
In early 2013 we met with Scott Blais (Co-Founder of The Elephant Sanctuary) in New York, and discussed what it would take to bring an elephant sanctuary in Brazil to fruition. Later in 2013 Scott and Kat Blais established Global Sanctuary for Elephants, with ElephantVoices as a founding partner. Meanwhile, with Junia as a vital force, Santuário de Elefantes Brasil was established as an organization in Brazil. These were major steps toward a groundbreaking venture.
In December 2013, Scott and Kat and Junia went on a study tour in Brazil to look for suitable properties. The search continued for two years during which Petter twice joined them. In June 2015, Santuário de Elefantes Brasil reached another key milestone with the purchase of a stunning 2800 acre property in Chapada dos Guimarães, Mato Grosso. Global Sanctuary for Elephants posted this presentation. Since then major efforts have been put into fundraising and the construction of the first phase of buildings and fences on the property.
We were humbled, touched and proud when the Sanctuary received its first two elephants, Maia and Guida, in October 2016, which created headlines around the world. You'll find quite a few through a search on Google - "Brazil opens Latin America's first elephant sanctuary". The Sanctuary will operate on the basis of Sanctuary for Elephants - Overall Principles.
In May 2017, on Maia's & Guida's six month Anniversary at the Sanctuary, Global Sanctuary for Elephants published a timeline showing some of the many steps and milestones toward normal behavior.
The little film above from the Sanctuary in November 2016 shows some interesting tool use by Maia. Using her trunk she manipulates a stick so that she can scratch her tummy efficiently. Later in the video Maia and Guida shows how two big elephants can use their bodies to scratch and massage one another in a truly compassionate way. It is easy to see that they both enjoy it very much in sanctuary.
Inspired by the plight of Teresita in Sao Paulo Zoo
Junia Machado's interest in elephants was inspired when she was eight years old. She began to take photographs of elephants in 2005 to call attention to their plight. When Junia saw Teresita in São Paulo Zoo some years ago, she made up her mind to take action for elephants and contacted ElephantVoices. Since then she has built up a network of people volunteering time and energy for elephants.
Together with co-volunteer Ana Zinger in Rio de Janeiro and Ticiana Carneiro in São Paulo she started blogging on ElephantVoices Brasil in 2010 and then launched ElephantVoices Brasil on Facebook. Many other volunteers have been involved over the years. In addition to news related to captive elephants in Brasil, and hand-picked news from around the world, Junia and her Brazilian team post material and news from ElephantVoices.org and ElephantVoices on Facebook, all translated into Portuguese.
In 2014 Junia took the position as CEO of Santuário de Elefantes Brasil - working closely with Scott and Kat Blais in Global Sanctuary for Elephants for the establishment and further development of the elephant sanctuary in Chapada dos Guimarães.