Shirley Turns 71!
Animal Stories from All-Creatures.org

FROM The Elephant Sanctuary
July 2019

While the average lifespan of captive Asian elephants is 42 years for Asians and 47 years for Africans, at 71 Shirley defies all odds.

Elephant Shirley

On July 6, 2019, The Elephant Sanctuary celebrates Asian elephant Shirley’s 71st birthday. While the average lifespan of captive Asian elephants is 42 years for Asians and 47 years for Africans, Shirley defies all odds.

“Shirley has been through so much in her life, it is amazing how quickly she seems to trust people,” said lead Caregiver, Kaitlin. “She emanates love and kindness.”

Born in Sumatra in 1948, Shirley was captured from the wild and sold to a traveling circus, entertaining audiences for more than 20 years.

In 1974, Shirley suffered a broken leg during an altercation with another elephant.

As a result of her injury, in 1977, she was transferred to The Louisiana Purchase Zoo and Gardens, where she was the sole elephant resident for 22 years. As Shirley aged, the zoo staff decided she needed more space and the companionship of other elephants. Her primary caretaker, Solomon James, accompanied Shirley on her journey to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Her arrival was captured by Argo Films and became part of the documentary, The Urban Elephant.

At The Sanctuary, Shirley had an emotional reunion with another Asian elephant, Jenny—nearly bending the bars of their barn stalls to be near to one another. It was later discovered that the two performed together in the circus 24 years earlier. See their reunion at The Urban Elephant.

This birthday marks Shirley's 20th year at The Elephant Sanctuary. Shirley spends her days journeying across Asia Habitat’s open fields and wooded hillsides, and often visits The Sanctuary's 25-acre lake with her habitat-mate, Tarra. 


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