The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee

Asian Ele-Diary 2008

December 25, 2008

It was a beautiful sunny day in ele-heaven today. All of the girls and our bachelor boy Ned spent time soaking up the sun. While Lottie napped on the south facing hillside in field #6, Minnie engaged in playful interaction with Debbie. The ele-cam revealed Minnie balancing a large tree effortlessly over the hot wire. Minnie dropped the tree more than once and watched the wire bounce up and down, up and down, up and down. Of course her play was interrupted when a caregiver traded Minnie some grass hay for the tree. We often have to remove such attractive toys from the immediate area of hotwire, as Minnie is sharp as a tack and knows exactly how to cause the fence to malfunction. Minnie was not discouraged by the hay distraction; instead, she munched for awhile and then set out to find Lottie and wake her up! The 3-sum basked in the sun by the sycamore tree for hours, only budging when they raced a few feet with the passing 4-wheeler. Bunny got an uncomfortable surprise in the wee hours of the morning when something stung her, causing a large welt on the inside of her front leg. She was concerned, but managed to derive a fair bit of pleasure from the glorious day.

The African beauties were mostly hidden in their winter wonderland, but they too were out and about soaking up the sun. The motto of the day: Be sure to fully enjoy the sun for the few hours it presents itself this time of year. Even Ned was found basking in the sun and chomping on his current favorite food, bamboo.


October 17, 2008

This is how we remember Jenny, always on the go surrounded by her family.
Never far from our thoughts, namaste dear Jenny.

Jenny on the go... June 2006


August 24, 2008

Today the "3-some" had a surprise. In preparation for renovations to their barn, Lizzie, Frieda, and Billie moved over to the adjacent Phase I barn. It was kind of nostalgic considering this barn was our first, a two-stall barn with an impressive restraint chute and all the amenities of the other barns; automatic waterers, automated gates, padded floors, free choice access to the yards and a newly dug pond! This was where Tarra, Jenny and Barbara stayed when they first arrived at the Sanctuary; their first of three barns. Delhi spent her quarantine year in this barn. Lota graced us with her presence for too short a time, leaving Misty to complete her tuberculosis treatment alone. This barn holds a lot of memories for all of us.

And now Lizzie, Frieda and Billie will create more memories, and they already have. This morning after breakfast, the gate leading from the Phase II barn was opened. To protect Frieda’s tender feet from the gravel driveway, a walkway of rubber mat flooring was laid out like a red carpet leading to the entrance of the Phase I yard. With a plan and treats in hand, caregivers invited the girls to make their way over to the new yard. Like three kids crowding to get through the door first on their way to the playground, Frieda got the edge and was out the door first with Liz second and Billie bringing up the rear. All three headed for the new yard without hesitation as the caregivers stood by smiling.

These ladies never cease to amaze us with their trust and thirst for adventure.

Slide Show


July 21, 2008

They are never far from our thoughts.
Namaste ~ Joanna and Tina.


July 6, 2008

On this day—her nine year arrival anniversary—Shirley reigns as our eldest Asian elephant; she is sixty years young. Her recovery following Jenny’s passing was slow, but it has been made less difficult because of Bunny and Tarra.

Bunny used to be a wanderer, leaving Jenny, Shirley and Tarra for hours or even days at a time to explore on her own.

But since Jenny’s death, Bunny and Shirley have not spent one moment apart. Bunny has been an example of devotion and sensitivity, displaying deep compassion towards Shirley. Their relationship is stronger than ever.

Happy anniversary Shirley!



Tarra, Shirley, and Bunny
Tarra, Shirley and Bunny


July 5, 2008

Remember when you all pitched in to pay for a custom dug pond for Dulary? The days were scorching hot and the rain was nowhere in sight. The pond was dug in record time and after a rain dance or two, water began to fall from the sky and fill up the pond. Well, the pond has been full of water for months but Misty and Dulary have paid no attention. The pond has been enjoyed by Winkie, Sissy and even Tarra, but not Dulary—until today! What a joy to see Dulary discover that the pond was not a mirage, but the real thing. Oh boy, are she and Misty enjoying themselves!

Enjoying the pond


May 19, 2008

Misty, one of the sleeping beauties

May 1, 2008
Dulary wasted no time blending into the herd. Her all time best girlfriend is Misty (shown napping below). The two act like two giddy preteens, darting all over the place at top speed, sharing trumpeted secrets in each other's ears and holding trunks. We can not imagine a more compatible pair of pampered pachys. Dulary’s joy at seeing her caregivers approach says it all. She is vocal, playful and secure in her new home. Happy anniversary, Dulary!

Dulary and Misty


April 26, 2008

In memory of Tina

Nearly every day that goes by causes us, in some way, to celebrate or reflect. Today is Tina’s birthday, and if she were still with us she would have been 38 years old, still quite young for an elephant. Tina was a radiant being, an accomplished singer and such a pleasure to behold. She never met a person she did not like, nor a day that did not bring her joy. We miss her dearly.


April 25, 2008

In memory of Barbara

From the moment Barbara arrived until the instant that she left us, we were her devoted students. She seriously touched our lives, transforming our perspective and will be forever remembered as a chalice of wisdom.


April 8, 2008

It has been more than a week since Queenie passed, and it is hard to verbalize how we feel. At first, there was disbelief followed by denial; then anger, and finally a softening that washed over us—an energetic blanket of acceptance.

Unlike Delhi's passing, Queenie went without warning. This feels to be the most difficult aspect of the loss. We are blessed with the images of Queenie's smiling face and silly squeaks each time her memory joyfully pops into mind. A glowing warmth and comfortable connectedness is what we feel now when we remember our sweet girl. Lottie and Minnie spent several days on and around Queenie's grave, but their time with her before her burial was the most profound. Their bonds could be felt, they were one. After Queenie was buried that connection seemed to diffuse; her body was not visible, it was unrecognizable. If Queenie was not required to be buried and her body was left above ground, it would have deteriorated into the earth, eventually becoming unrecognizable, but at a much slower rate then what Lottie and Minnie experienced. Queenie's burial speeded up that process for Lottie and Minnie. From all observations and interactions with both Lottie and the transformed soft Minnie, their grieving process has taken a healthy and natural course with both returning to a somewhat normal routine over the past few days.

When Queenie's face flashes across our minds, which happens many times each day, we are filled with a warm glow and gladly reminded of the dear, sweet, confident member of the diva sisterhood. Queenie reveled in her freedom, living each moment to the fullest. We will miss her dearly and accept that it was her time to go..


March 30, 2008

It was a gray dreary day, the cloud cover never lifted and the air felt as heavy as our hearts. Lottie and Minnie swiftly moved from the pond yard out to where Queenie’s body lay waiting for their arrival.

Lottie moved gracefully across the pasture, serious yet tentative, and things felt quietly primal as she moved straight towards Queenie. When Queenie’s body was in sight, Lottie stopped and waited for Minnie to catch up. They both stood close, still for several seconds, then Lottie made the first step and Minnie followed. Again they paused and this time Minnie proceeded no further, while Lottie, as if on tender tiptoes, closed the gap between her and her beloved Queenie.

The look on Lottie’s face was heartbreaking; it was as if she did not yet understand what she was seeing or what had happened. She reached out to smell, and then a few steps later reached out to touch Queenie’s face as she lay on her side in the pasture. Minnie slowly made a wide circle around Queenie, fiddling with twigs and grass, glancing at me and then the dogs for what appeared to be a welcomed distraction from something much too painful to consider, something she desired not to acknowledge just yet.

Lottie tenderly touched all over Queenie, not rushed, no urgency, no panic or confusion, just loving kindness, the heartfelt touch of a dear friend. She wore a knowing, yet foggy, look on her face; the two were in a powerfully radiant dance, in slow motion.

Minnie watched from a distance.

As Lottie continued her tender recognition of her friend, she was one with Queenie, almost like the two were actually breathing together, like Queenie indeed was only sleeping and Lottie was her protector while she dreamed.

As Minnie continued to make her way around Queenie and Lottie, not an audible word was uttered. Minnie entered the woods and pulled at a few low branches; you could see she was apprehensive, she was unsure. As Lottie continued to caress every inch of Queenie’s body, Minnie silently approached and began to scent Queenie and was now sharing in the dance. She and Lottie circled Queenie’s body, touching, looking soulful—and then Minnie stepped closer. She tested the area directly around Queenie’s tummy and then, ever so gentle, in a manner never before observed of Minnie, she entered a new world, the world of her ancestors. She painstakingly and gently lifted one front foot and then the other over Queenie’s bloated belly and placed both feet centimeters from Queenie’s back, arranging her hugeness protectively and completely over Queenie’s body.

Minnie breathed deeply, and as she exhaled it felt as if the air was being sucked from my lungs. Minnie was letting go. There was a charge of energy in the air, and I would almost swear that in that moment Minnie had been transformed. Her love for Queenie allowed an opening in her heart through which all of her long-denied compassion, empathy and grief rushed in; she is now fully in the moment, the emotional moment, and she is standing confident with her dear friend facing her fears; she is not running away.

As tears flow down my face I can hardly contain my heart in my chest for I know what this tragic turn of events means for Minnie. No greater gift could any one of us receive then the opportunity to find our true loving self underneath the piles of defensive barriers we build. Queenie has given Minnie the ultimate gift.

As the dreary day wore on, Lottie and Minnie kept their vigil. Without strain or words to the outside world, these three dear friends lived as they had each day in the past two years, in each other's loving company. Lottie slept touching Queenie while Minnie slept a few feet away. Their meals were delivered as usual with Queenie getting her fair share. Each time hay was delivered, Lottie would leave Queenie’s side, but Minnie did not. She looked in my direction, soft soulful, a Minnie that she has kept hidden or perhaps that she herself never knew before this time. Minnie did not cry tears but she was mourning in a real way, needing to be close to her friend.

I respectfully approached and laid hay down in front of Queenie and Minnie; she watched me, and not even the invitation from playful dogs gave her a reason to leave Queenie’s side. At 10pm Lottie and Minnie remained in the pasture with Queenie, receiving their meals and extra hay. If the cloud cover had lifted, the moon would have illuminated the precious love that radiates from these elephants, sharing the midnight hours together in the place they found together, a place of sanctuary, their true home.

Minnie, Lottie, and Queenie

Queenie, Lottie, and Minnie

Queenie's Gift
Queenie's Gift


March 29, 2008


I hardly know how to share this news, it is shocking and I know it will bring tears to all. Our dear Queenie passed away unexpectedly today. There were no warning signs, no sickness, no shift from her adventurous playful self. In fact, Queenie spent a good portion of her day on Friday in the upper pond for all of our EleCam viewers to see. Queenie was the diva that knew how to play and she knew how to love. She was fine with caregivers but she gave her heart to her sister elephants, all of them. She was best of friends with the mighty Minnie and loyal Lottie; the three were inseparable.

Queenie was the cutest squeaker you will ever hear. Her vocalizations grace our new Our Girls DVD; she had the most unique elephant speak imaginable. Queenie left us abruptly. No, we were not prepared. We feel like we are in a stupor, wondering what just happened. One thing these girls teach us is that without a doubt they make the decision when to transcend this earthly life. Obviously, as demonstrated by her hasty exit, Queenie’s work here was done. We can’t yet consider life without Queenie, she simply left too quickly, and we are still processing and shedding lots of tears; we love her, we miss her, we wish she would not have left us so soon.


March 19, 2008

The overnight rain storms filled the creek with the thunder of rushing water as well as floating logs and tons of sticks, leaves and other of natural debris. It was sprinkling on and off all day, the perfect stimulus for swimming. Yes, the elephants love to swim in the rain. If it is storming, all the better; the harder the rain the more they play—add lightening and thunder and the entire herd will pile into the pond! Today Lizzie discovered the swollen creek, and on three different occasions went in for a splash. One time Billie joined her and appeared to be less interested in playing in the water and more interesting in watching Lizzie. But three turns in the creek apparently was not enough for Lizzie today; she ended the day by submerging herself in the pond and really making a big splash!

Slide Show


March 18, 2008

The day of Delhi’s burial, Frieda developed a stomach ache. Although she does not experience this condition often, Frieda is prone to colic so we are very attentive to the volume of water she drinks daily and to her intake of newly-found vegetation. We will never know for sure what prompted the stomach ache, but to relieve some of the discomfort she lay down--which is a normal behavior for her. Unfortunately, Frieda chose to lie down in an area that was very difficult for her to get back up. She spent too much time trying to right herself and caused herself a great deal of stress. Caregivers were on the scene to help her get up on her feet, and followed up with veterinary-recommended treatment to address her soreness. Along with long baths, lots of rest, and a variety of remedies for a speedy recovery, Frieda has been offered a buffet of goodies several times each day. She is back to eating normally and feeling like herself again. We are all relieved and she surely has enjoyed the pampering.

Slide Show


January 31, 2008

Two years ago today, the first of our precious divas unloaded from their transport trailer and took a long look around their new surroundings. Lottie and Minnie, matriarch and the princess daughter, did not waste a minute in the barn—instead they raced outside to see exactly what this place was all about. In the 24 months that followed, these two grand ladies have woven themselves into the fabric of the Sanctuary, teaching caregivers volumes about the extent of dysfunction a captive elephant can recover from.

In this past year. Lottie has blossomed, showing her soft side to elephants and caregivers alike, she is a dear. Her devotion to Minnie is an important element of Minnie's recovery. Seriously impacted by alarmingly depraved happenings in her past, Minnie appears to be the individual who has suffered the deepest psychological wounds. We are thankful for each increment of recovery, as we know that Minnie deserves to be free of the horrendous burden that has been heaped upon her. We are confident that a full recovery is possible. Today, as always, all of her dear friends huddle around her with gentle touches, chirps and trumpets, baskets of goodies and pounds of patience, letting her know just how much she is loved!


January 26, 2008

It was cold today but that did not dampen Sissy's anniversary. She and Winkie are such caring friends—Sissy with her soft, sensitive smile, gently supporting Winkie in all she does. Winkie has really been showing a softer side lately and we know that Sissy is a huge part of that. Sissy makes Winkie feel safe and secure. As the years fly by we are eternally grateful that Sissy was able to endure years of brutality and not lose the sweetness that is her very essence. Her rescue seems like only yesterday but what a joy to know she has been with us for eight years today!


January 25, 2008

Delhi's last nap rejuvenated her for almost a week. Then again, early Friday morning, sometime after Scott left the barn at 2AM, Delhi laid down on her pile of shaving for another long nap. This time the caregivers were more comfortable regarding their role in Delhi's routine. Her vitals were monitored and her demeanor evaluated. It seemed this time Delhi was not as soft and relaxed as she had been the past two times she took her long naps. A remedy was prescribed to help her soften. If effective, the remedy would help her benefit from the rest by removing the discomfort she was experiencing. Even though Delhi appeared a little uncomfortable it was nothing that would suggest that she was in unnamable pain. Her leg stretches were a little stiff, not fluid like we would prefer to see.

The remedy worked and Delhi settled right in and indeed benefited from her long nap. The caregivers are fully aware of how their emotional state can impact the elephants, so during times like these, when Delhi takes an extra long nap, we try to keep our anxiety in check. We all do our best to not project into the future, not burden Delhi with our fear of losing her and to focus on sending her support and acceptance for whatever is to come. And most importantly, we lavish Delhi with all of the love we feel for her. At 11 PM, as Scott dozed off just feet away from Delhi, she silently got up, doing her best not to wake him. Scott opened his eyes to see Delhi drinking from her personal automatic waterer—just as content as she could be. What an amazing lady she is!


January 19, 2008

30 hours had passed since Delhi rose from her extended slumber. She has been active and eating normally. Scott stayed up until 2pm redoing Delhi’s shavings bed to perfection. If she laid down again Scott wanted her to be completely comfortable. Again when AM staff entered the barn they saw that Delhi was once again snuggled in a bed of shavings sound asleep. Without disturbing her they checked her breathing and examined the area around her body to ascertain approximately how long she had been lying down. That is just one of the great things about elephants, they defecate several times a day which can come in handy when a caregiver is trying to determine a timeline in just such a situation. It appeared that Delhi had been sleeping for no more than two hours…so they quietly crept away so she could sleep.

Her second sleeping marathon was nearly a duplicate of the first. Caregivers monitored her as she rested paying close attention to any change in posture or signs of discomfort. Delhi never exhibited any signs of discomfort or concern, she simply rested. A remedy was administered but this time she got up before it was time for the second dose. Before 30 minutes had passed she was up on her feet, eating, drinking, and looking at everyone with that “what? I was just sleeping” look. Apparently Delhi does know how to take care of herself.


January 17, 2008

This morning when caregivers entered the barn to start the AM shift, they found Delhi sleeping comfortably on a pile of soft shavings in her favorite stall. Misty and Dulary were huddled close in an adjacent stall, gently stroking Delhi’s face along with each others. The feeling in the barn was calm. The caregivers went about their chores taking care not to disturb Delhi’s slumber, appreciating that she was taking some weight off of her slowly deteriorating feet. Delhi is over 60, happy and playful and living with a full blown case of osteomyelitis in both front feet.

It was not until early afternoon when Scott began to wonder if Delhi should be thinking about getting up; a conscientious caregiver is always challenged to allow the animal to do what they feel is best. This idea is contrary to the caregiver inclination to always be helping. In this case Delhi proved once again that the elephants have the wisdom to know what they need. If allowed they take care of themselves quite well.

By the time Delhi had been sleeping for 10 hours her vets had prescribed remedies to stimulate her to get up and a plan was readied in case the hoist was required. Delhi received three doses of pulsatilla, a homeopathic remedy which in this case was prescribed to address her complacency with getting up. You see Delhi was quite comfortable lying down; she was warm and cozy. She was being hand fed her favorite foods, pampered by her sister elephants and caregivers, in between her bouts of deep slumber. At no time did she show any sign of discomfort, fear or concern. By all accounts she was just taking a very long nap. Our concern was that elephants can experience problems if they remain in a reclined position for too many hours. The problems are caused by pressure on their internal organs which makes it increasingly hard to breathe as well reduced circulation. For these reasons, elephants usually only sleep a few hours at a time—normally 4 hours in 24. But remember, Delhi is a senior citizen so she has been known to sleep more hours in a stretch than the other elephants.

The game plan was discussed and we were all in agreement that if Delhi did not respond to the series of homeopathic remedies then she would be given a dose of banamine. If she was avoiding pain by lying down then the banamine would cut the pattern of pain giving her the freedom to get up. At 6pm, Delhi was still snoozing away so Scott administered the banamine while Kat and Mary hand fed her favorite treat—corn on the cob. A call went out to the other barns for their supply of corn and by morning the Asian barn cooler was over flowing with Delhi’s personal stash. The ten o’clock feed came and went with Delhi content to continue to catch up on her beauty sleep; her vitals were monitored and blood work was done in house. Her pulse was normal, her tongue was a perfect pink, and her breathing was normal and constant. Then at 11:45pm with one kick of her back leg Delhi righted herself and rose to her full stature which to all of us seemed feet taller than she was when she laid down. She was downright radiant, with that heart-melting twinkle in her eye and a cute little grin on her perky mouth. She accepted the hose Scott offered and drank for an eternity, then proceeded to eat and be fussed-over by caregivers and elephants alike. Yes, we were all relieved because even though we believe that Delhi is in charge of her own destiny and that we must support her choices for her life and passing, we were hoping to be blessed with more time with the magnificent lady…and we are.


January 10, 2008

What an exciting day! Some rather severe weather raced across Tennessee in the usual flash style. The weather comes on fast and strong, and is gone that quickly. Today we started out sunny, then rain, then winds and hail and then a torrential downpour, which resulted in flash flooding— which is always a welcome occurance at the Sanctuary. We welcome the water, as we don’t have any areas that experience dangerous flooding—but we do have many creeks, streams and ponds that spill over their banks with such weather, and the girls love it! Today Sissy and Winkie christened Dulary’s pond. They decided they weren’t wet enough during the downpour and hail storm, so they made their way down the trail to the pond, and slid right in. Winkie took a couple of dives under water, rolling all around, while Sissy was her soft self and mostly waded. When they were done, they stood along the edge of the pond and coated themselves with red mud—which is still coating Winkie’s nose pink.

Winkie and Sissy


January 5, 2008

I hope many of you saw Minnie on the elecam this morning and boy I wish we had had a digital camera handy. Today, Minnie actually broke a thin layer of ice that had formed on the upper pond and went for a swim. I wish you all could have seen her; what an active diva!

Below are screen captures from the ele-cam of two intrepid girls enjoying a winter dip in the pond.

a winter dip