The first elephant sanctuary in Latin America will soon be opened in Brazil and will initially be home to three residents who formerly worked in circuses, said a report released by Brazilian officials on Sunday.
"The idea is to build an establishment like the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee in the United States," , said Junia Machado, president of the Santuario de Elefantes Brasil group that is behind the projectin an interview published by the Brazilian daily Folha de S. Paulo.
The facility is due to open by next year and will be in Mato Grosso state in the western cental part of the country, close to soyfields, cattle ranches and a national park.
Machado's group has purchased a property of about 1,100 hectares (2,700 acres) in a forested area near fields and water sources, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Chapada dos Guimaraes tourist park.
Three female elephants will be the sanctuary's first guests, including Ramba, a 50-year-old Asian elephant that spent decades working in circuses in Argentina and Chile.
Her background left her with scars, abscesses and a chronic renal problem.
The other two creatures, Guida and Maia, are aged 40 and have lived since 2011 on a farm in Paraguay after they were retired from a Brazilian circus.
The sanctuary may eventually house 50 elephants. They will not be bred and the center will not be open to visitors.
"We want these animals to find peace, and there's not yet a way people can see them up close without them losing their freedom," Machado said.
The sanctuary in Brazil will not be the first of its kind in the world though. Elephant Haven in France was Europe's first elephant sanctuary. Among other notable sanctuaries there is the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage which has the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. Hohenwald Tennessee, founded in 1995, is another famous elephant sanctuary and is America's largest elephant sanctuary devoted to African and Asian elephants.