Flora and Tange, 20 Years at The Sanctuary

On March 3, The Sanctuary celebrates Flora's 42nd birthday. She arrived at The Sanctuary 20 years ago, becoming the third African elephant to join our herd!

Flora, born in 1982 in Zimbabwe, Africa, was orphaned at age two and brought to the United States, where she was purchased by David Balding and introduced to the circus in 1985. Over the next 18 years, Flora became the star of Circus Flora and even appeared in the Pee-wee Herman movie Big Top Pee-wee. However, as she matured, Balding began to seek options for her retirement. After several temporary stays, The Elephant Sanctuary offered Flora a permanent home, expanding the construction plans for Africa Barn and Habitat to accommodate her. Documented by Crossover Films in the documentary One Lucky Elephant, Flora's journey from orphan to circus sensation to Sanctuary resident showcases her remarkable story.

Flora is recognized as a more dominant elephant, possessing a regal stature with abundant self-confidence. She often captures the attention of Care Staff and exhibits enthusiasm for exploration. Additionally, Flora is known for her preference for snacking on sweet watermelons! Alongside her current companions — Tange, Sukari, and Donna — she fully utilizes their expansive habitat. The herd is often seen roaming freely, foraging, knocking down trees, and wallowing in the mud.

Earlier this year also marked Tange’s 51st birthday and 20 years since her groundbreaking arrival as the first African elephant to join the herd at The Sanctuary! Originally established in 1995 as a refuge for female Asian elephants to meet the needs at that time, The Elephant Sanctuary reflects on the historical preference for Asian elephants in circus performances. Because of their smaller size, Asian elephants were often perceived as more trainable and docile compared to their African counterparts, leading to their frequent use in circuses and traveling shows. However, with the rising number of African elephants in human care, in the early 2000s, The Sanctuary was called upon to expand its operations and warmly welcomed Tange and her longtime companion, Zula, on February 19, 2004, marking them as the 10th and 11th residents and the very first African elephants. Flora arrived soon after on March 3, 2004 becoming the 12th resident. Zula passed away January 11, 2009 in the company of Tange and her Caregivers and Veterinarian.

Flora and Tange have grown increasingly close over the past few years, displaying affection through entwined trunks, sparring, and caressing. Tange often encourages and solicits play from Flora, exhibiting a continual strengthening of their social bond.

Thanks to the generous support of our donors, Tange and Flora has paved the way for many others of her kind to find a home in the hillsides of Tennessee in the years that followed, including Sukari, Donna, Nosey, Edie, Artie, and more who will soon join.

If you are looking for a special way to contribute to Flora, Tange, and the rest of the herd, consider Feeding an Elephant for a day! Each of The Sanctuary's resident elephants consumes approximately 150 pounds of food every day. While the elephants forage and graze naturally in the habitat, The Sanctuary must also provide additional food, supplements, and plenty of watermelon for Flora! Your donation helps The Sanctuary with one of our largest ongoing operating costs.

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