It was an eventful day when Shirley the elephant arrived in the transport truck on 6 July 1999 at her new home at The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. Even with all of the emotion surrounding her arrival, elephant emotions included, Shirley could never have imagined that a special encounter would be only hours away!
But this elephant lingered unexpectedly in the vehicle. Then as if finally deciding once again to take her chance on fate, Shirley slowly & deliberately backed herself out of that truck onto the ramp that was cushioned softly by hay. She was now on sanctuary grounds!
It wouldn’t be much longer until her final surprise awaited her. But first Shirley said her goodbyes to Solomon James, her former keeper at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo. And she couldn’t resist inspecting her welcome basket made of watermelon & all kinds of fruits & vegetables!
Then a special visitor appeared. But this visitor was of the elephantine variety and for an elephant like Shirley who had been apart from “her kind” for 22 years this was quite the special visitor indeed.
But wait, could it be??? Could it really be Jenny after all of these years?
Though Shirley and Jenny’s history together was brief, their bond remained with them throughout their lives. (They had spent only one winter season at a circus together when Jenny was a baby. And as Shirley was well into her twenties, she had become little Jenny’s surrogate mom.)
Flash forward 22 years to 1999 and Shirley’s first day at the sanctuary and who should appear in front of her eyes but baby Jenny. Only Jenny was all grown up. The emotion was immediately overwhelming for both of them, especially Jenny who suddenly tried in desperation to get through the stalls that initially separated them.
But Jenny would not have to wait too long. After Shirley “was allowed into the adjacent stall” they touched trunks and spoke to each other through “loud ROARS”(Shirley initiated this). Back and forth they went, until finally the humans responded to Jenny’s “frantic” clanging of the gates and many attempts to “climb through and over the bars.” They opened the last gate that separated the two elephants and finally, they were at peace. Shirley and Jenny had found each other again and, as the humans said, that they had never seen, felt, or witnessed this “depth of emotion” in their entire lives.
There can be no greater satisfaction than this.
Elephant conservation rocks!
With sincere thanks to one of the “humans” at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee:
Carol Buckley, co-founder
Love forever and ever,
Shirley and Jenny
For the story of Shirley and Jenny’s reunion see Shirley’s Photo Album:
Photos: The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee
See argofilms “The Urban Elephant: Shirley’s Story” about Shirley’s move to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and her emotional reunion with Jenny.
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