Shirley's 70th Birthday Surprise

For Shirley’s milestone 70th birthday, July 6th, Caregivers pulled out all the stops—creating a gigantic ‘70’ out of bamboo, strung with fresh flowers and produce and baking a vegan carrot cake layered with hay.

The biggest surprise of all, however, was a visit from Shirley’s former Caregiver, Solomon James—his first visit since 1999.

Prior to her retirement at The Sanctuary, Shirley lived at The Louisiana Purchase Zoo and Gardens, where she was the sole elephant resident for 22 years. As Shirley aged, the zoo staff decided she needed more space and the companionship of other elephants. Her primary caretaker, Solomon James, accompanied Shirley on her journey to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Her arrival was captured by Argo Films and became part of the documentary, The Urban Elephant.

A Birthday Reunion

As Solomon walked up to the fence line and began talking to Shirley, she turned her head in his direction and held both ears out, listening intently. After a while, Shirley came toward the fence and gently accepted produce from Solomon with her trunk.

“I guess I never actually dreamed that after working with her for 22 years, that [almost] 20 years later, Shirley would still be here, looking like she’s doing well. I’m hoping she has many birthdays and by the way she’s looking now, I believe she’s going to.” - Solomon James

The Sanctuary is honored to continue to provide Shirley with the highest quality of care in her golden years.