African elephants find sanctuary in Florida

Associated Press | AP Photo: J Pat Carter
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Home sweet home

The National Elephant Center's primary goal is to ensure African elephants' long-term survival. The animal is listed as endangered in Asia and vulnerable in Africa. See gallery

At the newly opened National Elephant Center in Fellsmere, Florida, four African elephants have found a new home — and a new favorite food — on the grounds of a former citrus farm. The elephants have discovered how to pluck oranges from the trees with their trunks and pop it into their mouths, and they reportedly eat up to 300 oranges a day. Fresh Valencia oranges are not the only thing that makes the 200-acre center unique. It is also the only such site operated by the U.S. zoo community to house displaced elephants.

The center is open to two categories of the mammoth mammals: Those sent for a limited stay by zoos that need to temporarily free up space for renovations or breeding and elephants that need a permanent home when their previous institutional or private owners can no longer care for them.

 

In this image: Jeff Bolling, the CEO of the National Elephant Center near Fellsmere, Fla., checks one of the four African elephants living on 200 acres in the heart of Florida's citrus grove region. The elephants are on loan from Disney. The land is leased from a private citrus grove at $1 per year.

Read more: African elephants find new home at Florida citrus farm

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

AP Photo: J Pat Carter
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Home for displaced elephants

There are four African elephants living on 200 acres in the heart of Florida's citrus grove region at the National Elephant Center in Fellsmere, Fla. The center is the only one operated by the U.S. zoo community to house displaced elephants.

AP: J Pat Carter
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Roaming the compound

An elephant roams a 25 acre compound at the National Elephant Center near Fellsmere, Fla. Officials at the center said many more elephants could live there.

AP Photo: J Pat Carter
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Checking tusks

Jeff Bolling, the CEO of the National Elephant Center near Fellsmere, Fla., checks the tusks of one of the four African elephants living on 200 acres in the heart of Florida's citrus grove region. It is estimated that 10 percent of the entire African elephant population was poached for ivory last year.

AP Photo: J Pat Carter
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An elephant's tusk

One of the four African elephants living on 200 acres in the heart of Florida's citrus grove region at the National Elephant Center, near Fellsmere, Fla. displays a tusk as it stands behind a fenced enclosure.

AP Photo: J Pat Carter
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Showing support

A gift shop in downtown Fellsmere, Fla. sells braclets that helps to support the National Elephant Center.

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An elephant never forgets...

One of the four African elephants living at the National Elephant Center peers out of a fenced enclosure. The center is run by the U.S. zoo community to house displaced elephants, mostly on a temporary basis. Some animals will come from zoos during renovations periods or breeding.

AP Photo: J Pat Carter
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Elephant adventures

A young elephant makes its way through the remains of an old citrus farm near Fellsmere, Fla. Officials at the National Elephant Center quickly learned the elephants enjoy the oranges from the old trees, eating up to 300 a day.

AP Photo: J Pat Carter
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Working with the elephants

Scott Krus, left, and Mike Tanton, work with a young elephant at the National Elephant Center in Fellsmere, Fla. Officials at the center hope to build a total of five barns and house a dozen elephants.

AP Photo: J Pat Carter
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Elephants close up

One of the four African elephants living at the newly opened National Elephant Center near Fellsmere, Fla., peers out of a fenced enclosure at the center. The primary goal of the center is to support the individual welfare and long-term sustainability of the species, which is on the endangered list.

AP Photo: J Pat Carter
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'They have been so very kind to me'

The National Elephant Center's executive director, John Lehnhardt, says"This is my retirement giveback to elephants, they have been very kind to me for over 37 years."

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Hard at work

The National Elephant Center's executive director, John Lehnhardt, said the climate in central Florida near Fellsmere is perfect for elephants.

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