The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee


1962: Born in India

1966: Brought to Southwick Zoo in Mendon, Mass.

1972: Sold into the circus industry and trucked to Florida for training

March 1972: Travels with Miller-Johnson Circus

Fall 1972: Joins the Hawthorn Five elephant act and begins traveling with Hamid-Morton Circus

1973-1993: Performs with the Hawthorn Five – Bombay, Tess, Delhi, Joyce and Billie – mostly with Hamid-Morton, which produced Shrine Circuses

1993: After lashing out at trainers, Billie is declared dangerous by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and ordered taken off the road

1993 – 2006: Lives in 20' by 20' stall in Hawthorn Corporation barn in Illinois

Feb. 9, 2006: Becomes the 21st resident of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee

Birth status: wild born

Height: 8'
Favorite Food: Bananas

Billie (female) was born in India in 1962. Like so many of the elephants now retired at the Sanctuary, poor record keeping during her early years offers us little detail on her history. Like most Asian elephants who arrived in America during this era, Billie is believed to have been captured from the wild and separated from her family at a very young age, sold, and then shipped to the United States to spend her days on display and giving performances.

Records indicate somewhere around the age of ten, Billie was acquired by the Hawthorn Corporation, a company that trained and leased elephants to circuses. Billie traveled and performed with several other elephants and increasingly became more aggressive towards her trainers until she was retired from performing and sent to live permanently at the Hawthorn Corporation winter quarters. Ten years prior to Billie coming to the Sanctuary, she was reportedly so aggressive that she was managed with protected contact. As a result of the USDA's prosecution for violations of the Animal Welfare Act involving inadequate care and mistreatment of its elephants, nearly all members of the Hawthorn Corporation's elephant herd were sent to The Elephant Sanctuary.

At 12:00 p.m., February 9, 2006 at the age of 44, Billie became the twenty-first resident of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee arriving with her friend Frieda. They were the last of eight circus elephants rescued from the Hawthorn Corporation.

Today, Billie is best friends with her long-time herd members Liz and Frieda. In 2011, after nearly five years in sanctuary, Billie finally allowed Caregivers to remove her ankle chain—the last vestige of her life as a circus elephant. Billie is frequently seen swimming in the pond behind the barn, and never seems to tire of splashing in the water. It is obvious that the freedom of The Sanctuary is having a healing effect on her.

Although Billie arrived with a dangerous reputation, she has shown no signs of aggression since her arrival at the Sanctuary. Like so many other elephants with similar histories that arrived before her, underneath her tough exterior lies a very loving and gentle elephant that will continue to relax and blossom in the coming years at The Elephant Sanctuary.

Billie, Liz, and Frieda
Frieda, Liz and Billie — best friends