Sissy Returns to Companions, Shirley and Tarra

Shirley and Sissy

Sissy has returned to Asia Habitat to be reunited with her long-time companions Shirley and Tarra! After a year of treatment for tuberculosis (M tb), and another year of follow up, The Sanctuary’s Vet and Husbandry Teams made the decision that Sissy would return to her long time companions and social group. 

In July 2017, Sissy moved from Asia Habitat to Q Habitat while she underwent treatment for tuberculosis. The Sanctuary’s Veterinary and Husbandry Teams worked together to implement a treatment plan that met recommended guidelines established in consultation with other elephant care facilities and was specifically-tailored to meet Sissy’s individual needs.  One year after completion of treatment and after multiple reports of continued good health, the decision was made to provide her the opportunity to be reunited with her long-time companions, Shirley and Tarra.

To assist in Sissy’s transition back to Asia, The Sanctuary’s Facilities Team created a 75-foot fenced alleyway between Q and Asia that allowed her to walk between the habitats. Sissy walked confidently through the alley, dusting as she went. She displayed recognition of Asia Habitat’s North Road, her old stomping grounds, and walked quickly toward Pond Yard where she dusted some more and drank her fill of water.

Upon her return, Sissy was quickly greeted by Tarra. The two reunited over the fence line, and were very tactile with one another. Both elephants made their unique vocalizations, Tarra ‘barking’ and Sissy popping her trunk. Caregivers eventually opened the gate between them, and they shared habitat space for the first time in two years.

A few days later, Sissy encountered Shirley for the first time on North Road and started thumping her trunk on a nearby waterer (Caregivers note that this is usually a sign of excitement for Sissy). Sissy slowly walked out to where Shirley was standing and Shirley greeted her with lots of trunk touches. After a few minutes, Sissy turned her head so that her face was right next to Shirley’s, and the two spent the rest of the afternoon close together like this until dinnertime.


Sissy, Shirley and Tarra share a history of known exposure to tuberculosis and are monitored regularly. They were all companions of Jenny, an Asian elephant retired to The Sanctuary in 1996, confirmed culture positive in 2005, and died October 2006. Jenny had been with the Hawthorn Corporation 1992-93. Testing of elephants owned by the Hawthorn Corporation in the 90’s revealed that tuberculosis exposure was widespread in the Hawthorn herd, marking the first time that the disease was detected in captive elephants in North America.


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