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A Midwestern encounter with African Elephants awaits in Indiana

Come face to face with the world's largest land animals in the small town of Paoli, Indiana.

Less than five hours south of Chicago, Wilstem Ranch in southern Indiana is home to 11-hundred private acres of woods and rolling hills with more than 30 miles of trails. Visitors can explore these trails by renting all-terrain vehicles, horseback riding, or zip-lining through the forest canopy. However, the biggest attraction at Wilstem is also the biggest land animal on Earth.

African elephants roam and feed as they wish across the pastures of Wilstem, safe from poachers back home who kill for their valuable tusks.

"A set of ivory on a full size female African Elephant could be worth up to $100,000 in the black market, and that's the tragedy." according to Wilstem Ranch worker, Jerry Fuhs.

Elephants orphaned by the ivory trade have found refuge in southern Indiana where they live for most of the year. During Winter months, the animals are transported to Florida to keep them nice and warm.

The elephants enjoy the weather, and they love the attention from visitors. The gentle giants get baths from visitors twice a day, 6 times a week. This is all part of Wilstem's "Elephant Encounter." Visitors happily scrub the animals, watching the elephants fall in love with the people washing them.

"It's hard to understand unless you've witnessed it first-hand, but you can watch them literally fall asleep during their bath," Fuhs said.

The elephants give off expressions of pure relaxation.

"They're like people," visitor Rebecca Johnson said. "They just want to love you and they want you to love them."

The nearly 6-ton animals love the visitor interaction. The entire encounter also includes an educational seminar about these enormously intelligent and curious creatures.

Learn more about the adventures you can have at Wilstem Ranch.