Shirley is safely—and wonderfully—at the Sanctuary
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.