Saving Mundi: an elephant rescued from exploitation for entertainment
Stolen from the wild as a young orphan, Mundi is among 63 elephants brought to North America only to live a life of suffering purely for entertainment purposes. While Mundi has now been rescued and brought to a sanctuary, other elephants remain in cruel captivity. We must continue to advocate for better - wildlife are not entertainers.
A mass-culling of elephants in 1984 by the Zimbabwe government left 63 young calves orphaned*. One of these young orphans was Mundi. She was only two-years old. Soon after they were orphaned, an eccentric millionaire bought the calves and transported them to his property in Florida. He then separated and sold them to zoos, circuses, and private individuals.
For the next four years, Mundi bounced around between different zoos and circuses. During this time, she was attacked by another elephant which left her blind in one eye and with a permanently damaged tusk.
In 1988, Mundi was sold to a zoo in Puerto Rico where she would spend the next several decades of her life performing for human entertainment. For the past 35-years, Mundi has been on display at this zoo in isolation, chained at night, performing circus tricks, and posing for selfies with visitors.
In February of 2018, the US Department of Agriculture cancelled the zoo’s exhibitor’s license after citing dozens of violations, including lack of veterinary care resulting in the death of a tiger, expired food and medications, and a failure to protect animals from extreme heat and physical hazards, among other issues. Mundi was under contract to be transferred to a sanctuary but, after a change in the Puerto Rico government, all contracts were cancelled, and Mundi remained in isolation at the zoo.
Mundi at her enclosure at the Puerto Rico Zoo before her rescue. | Photo: Elephant Aid International
Fortunately, in February 2023, the US Department of Justice ordered the zoo's closure and the relocation of all the remaining animals to reputable sanctuaries.
Thanks to your support, we are happy to announce that Mundi has been successfully transported from the zoo in Puerto Rico to our partners at the Elephant Refuge North America (ERNA) sanctuary in Georgia, USA.
Mundi safely in her new home at Elephant Refuge North America (ERNA). | Photo: World Animal Protection / Katie Bryden
Mundi will spend the rest of her life alongside her two new friends Bo and Tarra – Asian elephants who were also rescued from circuses and zoos.
Mundi’s new home: Elephant Refuge North America (ERNA)
ERNA is a project by Elephant Aid International, founded by Carol Buckley. Mundi’s rescue is part of a bigger operation by Pat Craig’s The Wild Animal Sanctuary to rehome all the zoos’ animals to sanctuaries.
ERNA spans 850-acres of rolling hills, lush pastures, dense forests, and a spring-fed lake. The climate allows the elephants to remain outdoors for almost all of the year, and each elephant receives individualized care that considers their past traumas and life-shaping experiences.
The elephants have autonomy and the ability to choose where and with whom they spend their time. At the same time, ERNA supports them in developing the confidence and skills required to bond with other elephants, each at their own pace.
While it is not the wild life Mundi had stolen from her, life in this sanctuary will allow her to live without suffering and cruelty.
Wildlife are not entertainers
Mundi's story is just one example of the exploitation of wild animals in the entertainment industry.
From circuses to theme parks, animals are used as commodities to entertain humans. They are taken from their natural habitats, denied their basic needs, and forced to perform unnatural behaviours. This exploitation is not only cruel but also puts the animals and the public at risk. Wild animals should not be in close proximity to people, as it is dangerous for them and us. Add in the stress of captivity and being forced to perform tricks, and the risk just increases.
Elephants like Mundi are highly intelligent and social creatures who require a natural environment to thrive. Yet, Mundi was denied this basic need and instead was used solely for human entertainment. She endured physical and emotional abuse, including being separated from her family and subjected to cruel training methods.
As consumers, we have the power to make a difference. By choosing not to support businesses that use captive wild animals in their entertainment, we can send a message that this kind of exploitation is not acceptable.
* Multiple mass-culling of elephants have taken place in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe government claims the culling is due to the large number of elephants were leading to destruction of habitat needed by other species and an increasing number of dangerous human-elephant interactions
Banner photo: World Animal Protection / Katie Bryden