Jan. 23—ATTAPULGUS- Elephant Refuge North America is starting the year with an elephant-sized celebration on January 22 for its largest resident, Bo. In lieu of a gigantic birthday cake, Bo will feast on a cornucopia of fresh fruits, vegetables, and fresh-cut bamboo, his favorite foods, followed by an elephant-equivalent spa day of cold laser therapy for his joints and a pedicure to keep his nails trimmed and healthy. The day wouldn't be complete without a hike to the largest mud wallow for a fresh coat of Georgia's red clay and a long nap in the sun after a few hours of grazing with friends.
Weighing in at 12,000 pounds, this 10'6" tall, 37-year-old Asian elephant embodies the term "gentle giant." Known for his calm demeanor and sweet disposition, Bo is almost always in the company of one of his two elephant companions—Tarra or Mundi.
Bo's retirement shocked the circus industry, as elephants can live into their 70s and Bo was in the prime of his life and a highly valued performer with almost three decades of experience. However, his owner, George Carden, decided it was time for Bo to leave the entertainment scene and live free. In September of 2021, Carden escorted Bo to the Refuge in southernmost Georgia to release him into a new life.
Fortunately for Bo, when George Carden contacted Elephant Refuge North America to discuss Bo's retirement, Elephant Aid International's (EAI) CEO/founder Carol Buckley was ready. With a new state-of-the-art elephant barn complete with soft estuary sand floors four feet deep instead of hard concrete and a surrounding 850 acres with 60,000 feet of the double fence system already in place, all that was needed was its first resident. Bo was ready.
Bo embraced retirement as if he knew the good life waiting for him. When he arrived at the Refuge, he quickly stepped off the truck and, after only a few minutes of taking in his surroundings, wandered into the woods to explore his new home. After only two months, another elephant arrived, Tarra. Bo's sweet nature drew her in immediately as those watching the Refuge's EleCam were able to watch them leaning closely on one another and sharing affectionate trunk touches.
In 2023, when the Refuge received its third resident, Mundi, Bo was right there on the other side of the fence, welcoming her. Not having seen another elephant in almost 35 years, it was uncertain how Mundi would react to an elephant encounter. To the joy of the staff, at first sight of Bo, Mundi ran full speed toward him. Elephants are highly intuitive, and even after being alone for decades, she could sense Bo was safe. Both reached over the fence to touch their trunks, talking as they engaged, soon to become fast friends, just as he did with Tarra.
Bo was born in a breeding program at Bush Gardens in Tampa, FL. By age five, he was sold to a circus, where he spent 29 years as a lead performer. Having been castrated at a young age, Bo spent his circus life with a herd of female elephants who adored the young bull elephant and taught him valuable social skills.
Now Bo spends his days grazing in the warm Georgia sun, swimming in the lake, napping under one of his favorite clusters of trees, and, of course, spending hours each day with his elephant companions, Mundi and Tarra, and even their dog companions Mala and Samie.
Located in Attapulgus, Georgia, Elephant Refuge North America spans 850 acres of gently rolling hills, lush pastures, dense forests, spring-fed lakes, creeks, and streams, with a climate that allows the elephants to remain outdoors 24/7 almost all the year. It is the perfect place for elephants to regain their "elephantness" and develop loving bonds with other elephants and caregivers.
To learn more, visit https://elephantaidinternational.org/elephant-bo/.