Doing What's Right for Tarra

Our Tarra lost her beloved dog companion Bella last week. So soon after her loss, Tarra is clearly in grief but is already reaching out to those best placed to comfort her—her elephant family. The Sanctuary recognizes Tarra's need to seek comfort from her sister elephants, and in doing so we honor the basis on which Scott Blais and Carol Buckley co-founded The Sanctuary.

Elephants form bonds with their own kind more enriching than any bond with humans. Their great capacity to deal with grief has been well documented in the wild. Sadly, most of the elephants that come to The Sanctuary were brought up away from other elephants by humans, losing the opportunity to relate to their own kind. While they may not be unhappy in their relationships with humans, because we don't share the same language their emotional development is stunted and they lose out on the wonderful diversity of communication and experience that wild elephants share with each other. The Sanctuary has, through patience and careful management, allowed elephants to rediscover their true selves and form deep and meaningful relationships with other elephants. There is no greater joy for our Caregivers than when elephants turn from them and towards other elephants.

We believe re-opening old relationships with humans hinders this natural development and is unhealthy for elephants. The need for elephants to communicate with their own kind is especially important during times of grief. Our elephants have shown us they can cope with the loss of their companions, whether elephant, human or dog, as proven by Minnie's great strides after the loss last year of Lottie, and Shirley's growing relationship with Tarra after the devastating loss of Jenny, to name just two. These elephants are now even closer to the other members of the herd because of the bonding these times of grief inspired.
Although we fully understand the desire of former companions of elephants to see them again, there is too much risk of damaging the bonding process among the elephants within their natural herd. The more our elephants are allowed to engage with each other the faster they will come to experience all the rewards that bonding with their own species brings.