Flora's First Decade in Sanctuary
Animal Stories from All-Creatures.org

FROM The Elephant Sanctuary
March 2014

elephant santuary FloraMarch 3rd marked the ten year anniversary of Flora's arrival at The Elephant Sanctuary. Flora was the 3rd African elephant to join The Sanctuary, Tange and Zula preceded her by a few days.

At 32, Flora is the youngest elephant at The Sanctuary, and we look forward to sharing her stories and updates for many more decades to come.

Our EleCams recently recorded Flora (and Tange) feeling a little “frisky.” Downing pine trees and eating the bark is a favored pastime for both Girls, and watching this display of strength is a reminder of how amazing these animals truly are.


Flora is a beautiful elephant weighing 10,000 lbs.—pure muscle. She has a healthy set of ivory which is a little shorter than Tange’s. When interacting with Tange she is usually the elephant whose trunk, head and ivory are held the highest.

Flora was born in the wilds in Zimbabwe Africa in 1982. At the age of two she was orphaned in a culling [mass killing] of all the adults and sub-adults in their family [herd].

Once orphaned, she was purchased by an elephant trainer and broker in Southern California. Flora was one of two baby elephants that were used to teach a course in elephant training. Ivor David Balding, founder of Circus Flora learned that a trained baby elephant was for sale and made arrangements to purchase her. He named her Flora, the name-sake of the circus he was responsible for creating. Carol Buckley, co-founder of The Sanctuary, and Tarra were present at the training school, demonstrating how to work a trained performing elephant. Carol was one of many people who participated in Flora's training sessions. 

David Balding introduced Flora to the world of circus in 1985. Following her debut in Circus Flora she quickly became the star of the show and spent the next eighteen years performing under the big top. In addition to her on stage performances, Flora also starred in PeeWee Herman movie Big Top. She all but stole the show.

After years of performing, Flora began to mature and life on the road no longer met her needs. David realized that Flora no longer enjoyed performing so in 2001 he began to research options for her retirement. Flora resided temporarily at the Miami Metrozoo in Florida, while David searched for a permanent home for her. He was determined to find a home for Flora that would satisfy both her physical and psychological needs.

During this time filmmakers Cristina Colissimo and Jordana Glick-Franzheim, of Los Angeles-based Crossover Films, documented Flora's journey from an orphaned baby to a circus superstar. The film is titled One Lucky Elephant.

The Elephant Sanctuary was involved in assisting David in his search for a safe and healthy environment for Flora. The Sanctuary fully supported David's desire to send Flora back to Africa if that move would ensure that Flora would be safe in the wild environment. At one point it appeared that Flora could be successfully reintroduced to her homeland, but to everyone's disappointment that opportunity fell through. Once David recognized that Flora would not be going back to Africa he had the daunting task of finding a suitable placement for her in the States.

Just about this time The Elephant Sanctuary decided to expand their facilities to include African elephants. As soon as David learned that the Sanctuary was going African he approached Carol and asked if there was room for Flora.

After two years of searching, David had finally found a healthy environment for Flora to live out the remainder of her life. The Elephant Sanctuary’s African Habitat has beautiful valleys, creeks, hills and secret little gullies for Flora to explore. Plenty of magnificent trees, both conifers and deciduous, offer our African elephants at The Sanctuary the unique opportunity to freely exercise their natural, wild instincts to browse and create savannas.

elephant santuary Flora

In May 2003, the plans were laid for Flora's retirement to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. On March 3, 2004, Flora arrived at The Sanctuary to begin her new life. Today Flora enjoys roaming and exploring in the African Habitat with her companion Tange. They have grown increasingly closer over the past few years and displays of affection, including entwined trunks, sparring, and caressing exhibit a continual strengthening of social bonds between Flora and Tange.

African Elephants at The Sanctuary will be the topic of discussion at our Welcome Center in downtown Hohenwald on Saturday, March 15. The Welcome Center will be open from 11 AM to 4 PM, and there will be a presentation from Sanctuary staff at 2:30. There will be family friendly activities happening all day. There will be no live animals at this event.

Return to: Animal Stories