Ramba’s Flight: ‘The Last Circus Elephant Of Chile’ Is Looking For A Ride Home

Ramba's been alone for 50 years but will soon find company in sanctuary

ramba's flight
Katherine Haselau / Flickr

Ramba's been alone for 50 years but will soon find company in sanctuary

For 40 years, poor Ramba the elephant spent her days working in the circus, first in Argentina and later in Chile. For the past six years, she has been the only elephant living at a roadside zoo. Elephants are extremely social creatures, meant to live in tight-knit family units, but Ramba has not seen nor heard another elephant in 50 years. All that will be changing for Ramba, however, in the very near future. She has been given the okay to be relocated to the Global Sanctuary for Elephants in Brazil, the only elephant sanctuary in South or Central America, where she will be able to roam free over the lush 2,700 acres there and frolic with the other elephants. For the first time in her life, Ramba will truly be at home. All she needs is a ride there.

It’s called “Ramba’s Flight” and it’s the final stage in a long process for the founders of the Global Sanctuary, Scott and Kat Blais. Elephant transport is difficult under the best conditions, but because of physical and medical issues due to the abuse and neglect she has suffered working in the circus, Ramba will need to be flown in a troop transport airplane from Chile to Brazil at a cost of about $200,000. There she will join Maia and Guida, the first two elephants at the sanctuary.

According to the Global Sanctuary’s website, it was founded in 2012 by Scott and Kat Blais (Scott had previously been the co-founder of the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary) to deal with what they saw as a captive elephant crisis in South America. Five countries on the continent had already passed bans prohibiting the use of performing elephants, but not being native to South America, the elephants had nowhere to go and couldn’t be returned to their original homes in Asia or Africa. The elephants often wound up alone on rural farms, living in tiny enclosures, suffering from neglect and inadequate care. This is where the Global Sanctuary came in. Maia and Guida are the first two of the majestic creatures to roam carefree and happy at the sanctuary and there are hundreds more waiting and anxious to get in, including Ramba.

According to the Global Sanctuary’s biography of Ramba, she was originally confiscated by the Chilean agriculture and livestock service from the “Los Tachuelas” circus in 1997. This ended up being a “confiscation” in name only. She was not allowed to continue performing but she remained in the custody of the circus where she continued to be abused and treated with neglect for many years. This is why Ramba is known as “The Last Circus Elephant of Chile.”

Finally, in 2011, Ramba was moved to a small Safari park in Chile, where she was still alone but allowed to live in an area with a few trees and a little pond. This was regarded as a temporary solution at best, as elephants need company and hundreds of acres to roam on a daily basis. She was initially scheduled to be moved to the sanctuary in Tennessee, but her declining health made a trip of that length impossible. Ramba has serious kidney issues brought about by her inability to get access to clean drinking water during her time spent toiling in the circus. She has also suffered greatly from the Chilean cold. The temperatures regularly reach below freezing for several months each winter. Elephants, of course, are used to much more temperate climates, like the kind Ramba will find when she gets to the Global Sanctuary, which is in a warm, equatorial region of Brazil.

All of the hardship and indignity Ramba has had to suffer in her life, though, will be water under the bridge when she finally gets to her new home at the sanctuary. All that stands in her way is the last bit of fundraising to pay for her plane ride. Scott and Kat Blais and the Global Sanctuary for Elephants are certain that, in the very near future, “Ramba’s Flight” will take off and this sweet old girl will finally find her way home.