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By: The Elephant Sanctuary

Sissy Turns 50!

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is now home to five elephants age 50 or older. Shirley, the third oldest Asian elephant in North America is 69; Billie is 55; Minnie and Ronnie are 51—and today, January 26, 2018—we celebrate Sissy’s 50th birthday.


Elephants in the wild can live to be 60 to 70 years while the average age of a captive elephant is only 40 years. Chronic, progressive conditions such as arthritis and foot disease affect many captive elephants, as do opportunistic diseases such as TB. However, with individualized care, captive elephants can and do live longer than average—sometimes much longer, like Shirley.

To celebrate Sissy’s milestone birthday, Caregivers baked her a vegan carrot cake and surrounded it with sweet potato and fresh fruit. They also created a mound of tires filled with bamboo and fresh produce for Sissy to enjoy.


Sissy was captured in Thailand as a calf, and first appeared in the United States on exhibit at Six Flags Over Texas amusement park in 1969. By year’s end, Sissy was sold to the Frank Buck Zoo in Gainesville, TX, to replace the zoo’s recently deceased elephant, Gerry. Renamed “Gerry II,” Sissy spent the next three decades as the focal point of the zoo, surviving a record flood after being submerged for a day and a half with only her trunk above water allowing her to breathe.

Sissy was moved to the Houston Zoo, and later the El Paso Zoo. The El Paso community spoke out to have Sissy retired and in January 2000, Sissy joined Tarra, Bunny, Shirley, Jenny and Barbara at The Elephant Sanctuary.

Reserved and cautious at first, Sissy soon began to venture farther out into the habitat, socializing with the others, especially Winkie, her closest companion.

After Winkie’s passing in 2017, Sissy joined the elephants in Q Habitat. Slow introductions are essential to the development of bonded relationships of non-related elephants. Sissy has been spending time with Ronnie and Minnie—even napping beside Minnie in the sun—and continues to share a fence line with Debbie and Billie. Care Staff look forward to watching bonded relationships form between all of the Q elephants.

Say Happy Birthday by Partnering with Us

Adopt Sissy and join in The Sanctuary's mission to provide Home, Herd, Rest, Refuge, and Individualized Care to Sissy and all the elephants that call The Sanctuary home. 

By adopting one or more elephants you become a partner in The Elephant Sanctuary's efforts to provide the gift of herd, home, rest, refuge, and individualized care for life.

Donations at the $50+ level receive:

  • a Certificate of Adoption, including a photo and bio detailing the amazing story of your “adoptee”
  • monthly EleNews email updates
  • and a one-year subscription to The Elephant Sanctuary’s triannual newsletter, Trunklines.

You can also support Sissy and The Sanctuary's mission with the purchase of Sissy's T-shirt—100% of proceeds go to the elephants' care.






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