Tarra was born in Burma (now Myanmar) in 1974. When she was six months old, she was brought to the United States in a wooden crate via cargo plane. She was sold to a tire salesman in Southern California who kept her in a delivery truck. Shortly after Tarra’s arrival in the US, the Asian elephant was declared an endangered species, and all future importation of Asian elephants into America was halted.
At two years old, Tarra was purchased by Carol Buckley. She was trained to perform, give rides and became know for roller skating and painting. Carol and Tarra traveled working in circuses, amusement parks, zoos, on TV and in movies for the next two decades. In 1995, Carol Buckley partnered with Scott Blais to found The Elephant Sanctuary and Tarra became the first resident.
In retirement, Tarra made new fans. The story and videos of her unlikely friendship with a stray dog named Bella at The Sanctuary was viewed all over the world. The duo were near-constant companions for eight years before Bella’s passing in 2011.
Tarra has been at The Elephant Sanctuary for 21 years. She has welcomed many of the newly retired elephants, trumpeting and spinning excitedly as the transport trailer arrived at the barn with a new resident. Caregivers refer to Tarra as a social butterfly—an elephant that seeks out all the other elephants in the Asia habitat for visits and companionship. Although Tarra is most often seen with Shirley and Misty before her passing, she frequently spends time with Sissy and Winkie. It is common for Tarra to walk miles on any given day to visit other elephants or to explore on her own. Elecams have often recorded Tarra wading in the lake, sometimes stirring the water with one of many sticks that she carries with her during her travels.
Tarra is easily distinguished from the other elephants by her very dark skin and her round figure. Tarra has a lot of hair on her head, chin, back, and tail. All of these physical traits are typical of elephants from her home-region. Tarra is easily recognized by her unique "barking" vocalizations. Caregivers describe Tarra as curious, always showing interest in what is happening around her.
At 41 years old, Tarra is one of the youngest Asian elephants at The Sanctuary. She has been at The Elephant Sanctuary over half of her life.