'One Lucky Elephant': Flora's journey back to the wild
Who is Flora? She is an African elephant born in Zimbabwe who lost her mother and family to then-legal cullting. She was captured and relocated to the United States where she was purchased by an elephant broker.
The story of Flora documented in "One Lucky Elephant," which premieres at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Saturday (June 19) begins when circus owner David Balding, who became Flora's guardian and surrogate father for 18 years, realizes that it's time for Flora to retire from circus life to be with other elephants.
In 2001, Ahali Elephants was formed in 2001 and they acquired Flora, who was first moved from David's circus to Miami's MetroZoo, where she could be with other African elephants.
Flora resided in Miami for nearly two (not exactly trouble-free) years, while Ahali Elephant searched the world for the best elephant-retirement home. In 2004, a 300-acre sanctuary for Asian elephants in Tennessee added 2,700 acres for a separate African elephant area. Finally, Flora -- thanks to contributions from elephant lovers everywhere -- was moved there.
"It was a dream come true for us all who had been searching for the right place for Flora to live out her life," says "One Lucky Elephant" writer/producer Cristina Colissimo, who worked for ten years on this project with her producing partner Jordana Glick-Franzheim.
But there were still problems in Tennessee when Flora began acting out, destroying fences and behaving aggressively to other elephants and humans. Her struggle to adapt to life in the wild with other elephants is seen in the film, along with struggle of a grieving and worried David to adapt to the loss of his beloved Flora.
The filmmakers hope that Flora's story will help people understand the plight of elephants who are removed from cramped zoos. Many zoos, like the L.A. Zoo, are retiring elephants from solitary quarters to elephant sanctuaries. Just returning them to wild isn't appropriate for many reasons, not the least of which is that one hundred elephants are being slaughtered for ivory every day in Africa. The only answer for most these great captive creatures is a good sanctuary.
FYI: Now that Flora become a Hollywood celebrity with a film about her life, you should know that her fave food is watermelon and she currently stands at 8' 9" and weighs a svelte 10, 125 lbs.
The film premieres on Saturday, (June 19) and will feature a panel discussion afterwards with the filmmakers and top elephant experts. For tickets and information, click here
Photo credit: "One Lucky Elephant"
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