From: Nashville Scene
At The Elephant Sanctuary, Pachyderms Regain Their ‘Wild Elephant Spirit’
Some call her Hurricane Flora — she leaves a path of destruction everywhere she goes. At 8 feet, 6 inches tall, the 38-year-old African savanna elephant mows down trees at The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tenn.
But for 18 years of her life, Flora wasn’t felling any trees. After being captured in Zimbabwe when she was 2 years old, she became the star of a traveling circus and performed in 1988’s Big Top Pee-Wee. As Flora got older, the man who owned her decided to let her retire, and The Elephant Sanctuary added Flora to their small African herd in 2004.
Joy Owens, an education specialist at the sanctuary, says Flora’s tree-felling habit is the kind of behavior that is common among her species in the wild. “It’s actually part of their ecological role in the wild to keep those savannas open and clear and grassy,” says Owens. “To see her doing this at the sanctuary is pretty incredible. Flora is a captive elephant. … She would not have seen her herd mates doing this. … That’s something we really like to see in all of our elephants — to see them kind of regain some of that wild elephant spirit and engage in those natural behaviors.”