Retired circus elephants are finding refuge at a new Florida wildlife sanctuary that specializes in endangered and threatened species as a dozen of these large creatures started arriving at their new home on Monday. 

The White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Fla., located just north of Jacksonville, will soon hold over 30 elephants that once performed for traveling circuses. Once the wildlife sancruary is completed, it will contain about 2,500 acres for approximately 100 pachyderms to roam. 

“We are thrilled to give these elephants a place to wander and explore,” said Mark and Kimbra Walter, the philanthropists that fund White Oak. “We are working to protect wild animals in their native habitats. But for these elephants that can’t be released, we are pleased to give them a place where they can live comfortably for the rest of their lives.”

The Yulee refuge has various habitats interlinked, as well as a variety of food sources available for the elephants. The animals will have the option to stay near the climate-controlled barn, hang out in the woods, play in the mud or take a dip in the pond, according to the website.

These animals are coming from the Center for Elephant Conservation, and many of them traveled with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus until 2016.  Those and other circuses have come under fire for the treatment of the animals.

“Watching the elephants go out into the habitat was an incredible moment,” Nick Newby, who’s worked closely with the elephants for years, as well as leads the team that cares for them, said in a statement per the Associated Press.

“I was so happy to see them come out together and reassure and comfort each other, just like wild elephants do, and then head out to explore their new environment. Seeing the elephants swim for the first time was amazing.”

A bull elephant living in the wild will soon be a common sight at a North Florida refuge. Tolstoy the bull elephant has survived many threats. But can he survive Europe's craving for avocados? Photo: AFP / Yasuyoshi CHIBA