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This 70 Year Old Circus Elephant is Finally Living Her Best Life

Shirley, a resident at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, just turned 70 years old. Asian elephants normally only live into their 40s, so this milestone is extra special. Given Shirley’s tragic history, it’s a miracle she’s made it this far.

Snatched From The Wild

When Shirley was a five-year-old calf in Sumatra, she was kidnapped from her family and sold to a traveling circus. Since elephants live in families and have a special relationship with their mothers, this was especially heartbreaking. Shirley spent the next 20 years entertaining the masses. She spent her days in small, ill-kept enclosures, and her nights performing for a paying crowd.


It was a sad and lonely existence for Shirley, who just wanted to be with her family again in the wilds of Sumatra.

Tragedy Leads To Salvation

While traveling with the circus one day, tragedy struck. Bandits attempted to capture the traveling circus animals, stealing them for their own gain. The car carrying Shirley, and other performing animals, was overturned. Most of the animals died right there, but not Shirley! She survived. In another circus accident on a ship, Shirley was burned and permanently scarred.

LA Progressive

Finally, a fight with another circus animal left her with a broken leg. Now maimed, the circus rejected her and sold her to a zoo. She was glad to be done with the circus life. Now she could live in peace, but she was lonely. Being the only elephant at the Louisiana Purchase Zoo and Gardens for 22 years was hard on Shirley.

A Happy Ending

When the zoo decided Shirley needed more space and companionship, they sent her to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. She arrived to find that she already knew one of the elephants who lived there. Her name was Jenny, and they worked together years before. As soon as Shirley saw Jenny, she was so excited to see her old friend. They became inseparable.

The Elephant Sanctuary

Although Shirley has been through great struggles in her life, she is a trusting soul. She’s kept her kindness over the years, despite her hardships, and loves her new home. The people at the sanctuary take great care of Shirley, from treating her tired feet to making her a surprise for her 70th birthday. She finally has a home and a new family, and that’s all she’s ever wanted.

Catch a glimpse of Shirley at the sanctuary on their Elecam!

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