Shirley is safely—and wonderfully—at the Sanctuary

Here Comes Shirley!!!

On July 6th, 1999 Shirley's friends from Tennessee, her friends at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo in Monroe, La., as well as Argo Films which is filming a documentary about the Sanctuary for National Geographic, local TV stations and other media joined together to welcome Shirley to the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. As the specially-equipped elephant transport truck slowly turned into the Sanctuary grounds, all eyes were riveted and hearts thumping as we waited for our new girl to arrive.

Here she comes!

The truck backed up to the door of the new barn, the back door of the truck was opened and a soft ramp of hay was created so that Shirley could back out safely. But she didn't move!!! She wasn't sure she wanted to go anywhere else. Finally, Shirley backed out safely and the last chain she will ever wear was removed from her leg. There were many happy tears from those who watched!

She's Really Here

Shirley was placed in the barn where she was greeted with a basket of goodies—watermelon and assorted fruits and vegetables—and a cooling shower. Her loving keeper, Solomon James, with the Louisiana Purchase Zoo and Gardens, accompanied Shirley to her new home. Solomon was very impressed with the facility and expressed joy that Shirley would be able to spend her remaining years in such a wonderful environment. We know that he will miss his companion of twenty-two years, and it was very obvious that a special bond exists between them.

First impressions

After Shirley rested for a few hours, Tarra was allowed to visit. Everyone watched in joy and amazement as Tarra and Shirley intertwined trunks and made "purring" noises at each other. Shirley very deliberately showed Tarra each injury she had sustained at the circus, and Tarra then gently moved her trunk over each injured part. This really happened. It also happened that Tarra did not want to share the watermelons with Shirley ... but Carol made sure that Shirley got her fair share!

The next major thing that was scheduled to happen was to open the gate so that Shirley could walk to the beautiful Sanctuary valley. So the gate was opened and everyone held their breath in anticipation. But she was not ready to do this until much later in the evening. And here, the story becomes quite amazing.

Carol Buckley, Sanctuary Director, writes:

"I can hardly contain myself. After everyone left Tuesday night, July 6, a miracle happened.

Jenny came into the barn for the first time since Shirley's arrival at around 7:00 p.m. There was an immediate urgency in Jenny's behavior. She wanted to get close to Shirley who was divided by two stalls. Once Shirley was allowed into the adjacent stall the interaction between her and Jenny became quite intense. Jenny wanted to get into the stall with Shirley desperately. She became agitated, banging on the gate and trying to climb through and over. After several minutes of touching and exploring each other, Shirley started to ROAR and I mean ROAR—Jenny joined in immediately. The interaction was dramatic, to say the least, with both elephants trying to climb in with each other and frantically touching each other through the bars. I have never experienced anything even close to this depth of emotion.

We opened the gate and let them in together....they are as one bonded physically together. One moves, and the other shows in unison. It is a miracle and joy to behold. All day yesterday, July 7, they moved side by side and when Jenny lay down, Shirley straddled her in the most obvious protective manner and shaded her body from the sun and harm. This relationship is intense and resembles that of mother and daughter. We are so blessed.

Last night they stayed out together—a first for Jenny. It was beautiful. Scott and I brought out their PM and AM groceries and they are as content as two peas in a pod!!! The joy in this sacred valley is almost overwhelming."

As a footnote to the story above, Jenny and Shirley were both at the same circus when Jenny was a calf and Shirley was thirty years. They were separated twenty-two years ago.

Watch a video of Shirley and Jenny's amazing reunion.