Lonely, partially blind elephant rescued from Puerto Rico zoo lands at Jacksonville airport, heads for new home

A lonely African elephant, a rhino and two hippos touched down in Jacksonville Friday afternoon after a three-hour flight from Puerto Rico.

The animals were rescued from a zoo that was ordered to close in February by USDA. The zoo had several animal welfare complaints and did not have a veterinarian. Some animals died.

RELATED: From the ring to the refuge: Elephants moving to Northeast Florida

After 35 years of living alone, “Mundi,” an African elephant, is now on her way to Georgia where she’ll live with two other elephants. Elephant Aid International Founder and CEO Carol Buckley said elephants are meant to be social so the move will help Mundi flourish.

A 747 carrying Mundi and the other animals landed at the Jacksonville International Airport on Friday afternoon. Mundi, whose trunk could be seen waving around in a specially made crate, is on her way to Attapulgus, Georgia. It wasn’t clear where the hippo and rhino are going.

Mundi’s handler Buckley said it was a process to make this happen, one that had some problems.

“Day one she put one foot in. Day two she put the second foot in. Day three she put the third foot in and then on day four, all the way in the crate,” Buckley said. “Then something happened. And we don’t know exactly what it was but something got her in the side. Something poked her in the side and that was it.”

After that incident, she eventually came around to going back in.

The 8,000-pound elephant that is blind in one eye and missing a tusk is headed to an 850-acre refuge to roam. There, she’ll be around two other elephants.

It’ll be the first time in over 35 years the 41-year-old elephant is around other animals like her. Buckley said it will help improve her life.

“The fact that she lived alone for all those years, that’s why she’s insecure, why she doesn’t trust things because she doesn’t have other family members to say don’t worry about that, that’s fine. So when she gets with other animals she will blossom because she’ll really discover her true self,” Buckley said.

It is a three-hour drive from Jacksonville to Attapulgus just north of Tallahassee.

About the Author:

Khalil Maycock joined the News4JAX team in November 2022 after reporting in Des Moines, IA.