Two Asian elephants, the 56-year-old Pocha and her daughter the 24-year-old Guillermina, left together for the Brazil Elephant Sanctuary (SEB) on Saturday 9th April 2022. After many delays, they finally left Ecoparque provincial, the former zoo in Mendoza, Argentina, where they have been kept for many years, to a hopefully better life in a sanctuary in the tropical Brazilian state of Mato Grosso.
They were ready to go in August 2021, but they were stopped later because the Ministry of Environment communicated that the sanctuary was not registered as a sanctuary but as a hatchery. The SEB is a non-profit organization that started in 2012 but only obtained authorization for operation from the Brazilian government in 2018. It has natural enclosures of between 40 and 400 hectares with thickets and vegetation.
The zoo in Mendoza was converted into an Ecopark almost five years ago, and this is why the animals had to be moved. With provincial law 8.945, a plan began for the translocation of animals that were outside their natural habitats, such as chimpanzees, lions, and elephants. The Mendoza government was working on the transfers since December 2016, but it was not until August 2020 that it was able to sign the agreement with the Brazilian sanctuary to send the animals there.
Pocha arrived at the Mendoza Zoo in 1982 from London zoo. Two years later she met Tamy, a former circus elephant, and in 1995 she became pregnant with him for the first time. Her calf died a few hours after birth, but three years later she gave birth to Guillermina. Mother and daughter will hopefully live a better life from now on, but there are many more elephants kept captive in zoos all over the world — and unfortunately, several born in them too — who deserve the same fate. There are currently several cases trying to free some in New York and California.