USA’s Largest Herd Of Asian Elephants Is In Oklahoma
Way down in an area of Southeast Oklahoma the locals proudly call Little Dixie, there's a town that features a park full of endangered Asian elephants. Seems pretty random doesn't it? Like, how in the world did a bunch of elephants end up in Southeast Oklahoma? Here's the weird history of it all.
In 1941, Al G. Kelly and Miller Brothers Circus decided to move their base of operations from the plains of Kansas to the town of Hugo in Southeast Oklahoma. Wikipedia says they were lured in by the local Hugo grocery store owners, but Hugo had long been a popular wintering stop for circuses and traveling rodeo shows due to its mild winter weather. From that point on, Miller Brothers Circus called Hugo home.
Fast forward to the turn of the 21st century and circuses were becoming more rare as attendance dwindled. The internet connected people and the masses sort of decided circuses were cruel to animals. Seeing the viral videos of trainers beating animals into submission make the rounds on the web certainly didn't help the industry, but these days the list of traveling circuses are pretty slim in America even as the emphasis has been put on human entertainment in lieu of performing animals almost across the board... but Hugo is still home to a past steeped in circus wonder. Enter the endangered Asian elephants.
Since it would be just as expensive as it would be cruel to return trained performing elephants to the wild, the Miller Brothers Circus elephants still call Hugo, OK home, but not as a part of the circus they once traveled with. Instead, a private non-profit called The Endangered Ark Foundation runs the camp where these magnificent beasts can live out the rest of their days in peace. Patrons and visitors are welcomed to the park to get up close and personal with these retired circus animals, feeding them sweet apples and watching them experience you as much as visa versa.
If you think a quick drive over to Hugo to experience elephants for yourself sounds good, here's the official website for the foundation. You might read up on their Covid-19 policies in place and get enough information to plan a solid road trip. Bonus points if you see the worlds largest bigfoot along the way.