Nichole (Nicky) was born in Myanmar (Burma) in 1975 as part of a herd that worked in Burmese timber camps. These government-run camps utilized captive and wild elephants for labor to extract and move large timber. At five years old, Nichole was transferred by the Ruhe family, who ran an animal trading company in Germany and New York City; their company imported animals from Asia, Central and South America, and Africa and shipped them to private owners, zoos, and circuses. In 1980, Nichole was imported to the United States. She spent the next several decades performing and on exhibition as part of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey traveling circus.

In 2016, Nichole moved to San Antonio Zoo in Texas, where she became one of three female elephants known as the “Golden Girls.” After the passing of Nichole’s two companions, Karen and Lucky, San Antonio Zoo made the decision to transfer Nichole to The Sanctuary to provide her with continued social and herd opportunities.

On March 9, 2023, Nichole completed the journey from San Antonio, Texas, to Hohenwald, Tennessee, and became The Sanctuary’s 30th elephant resident. Nichole was often seen dusting herself with sand and was easily engaged by the enrichment Care Staff created for her. She was very tactile, touching everything in her surroundings with her trunk out of curiosity. Nichole stood around seven and a half feet tall and weighed over 8,400 pounds. Similar to Asian elephant Sissy, Nichole had rippling folds across the top of both ears and “freckles” on her trunk and ears.

Nichole arrived with a long history of chronic foot disease and osteomyelitis. These health issues were compounded by a diagnosis of degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis, and septic arthritis. Nichole’s conditions impacted her quality of life and, combined with her age, set a grave prognosis. Due to irreversible progression of these health issues and the increasing pain associated, Nichole was humanely euthanized on April 20, 2023 at age 48.

At The Sanctuary, Nichole was introduced to herd mates Sissy and Nosey. Nichole was known to be a welcoming elephant, eager for social opportunities. Upon meeting Sissy for the first time through a fence line barrier in the barn, she demonstrated this by touching Sissy with her trunk. Sissy, sometimes more reserved during introductions, allowed Nichole to smell and touch her before walking away. Staff had observed Sissy and Nichole spending time eating hay and produce near each other. Caregivers listened to their communications, with Sissy popping her trunk and Nichole thumping hers on the ground.

Nosey was seen reaching with her trunk through the fence to greet Nichole and spent hours relaxing next to Nichole along the fence. Staff noted that when Sissy and Nosey interacted, Nichole often observed and listened with one ear out, even rumbling and smacking her trunk on the ground in apparent excitement. We are hopeful that both Sissy and Nosey brought Nichole comfort in her final days.

About Nichole








Asia Habitat



Favorite Food

Coconut Water


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