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Former Circus Elephants Reunite In Heartwarming Video After 22 Years Apart


The account of elephants Jenny and Shirley is one that truly demonstrates the power of friendship. The two developed a tight-knit relationship while in bondage together at a circus. However, they were eventually separated. Decades later, the two reunited, and the beautiful moment was captured on video, proving the old adage true –– elephants never forget!

An Infinite Bond

Jenny and Shirley spent the winter of 1973 at the same circus. Jenny was just a year old at the time. She had been captured at a young age and had to cope without her mother. She immediately became attached to Shirley, an older elephant in the circus.

Elephant Sanctuary

Shirley soon turned into something of a mother figure for Jenny. The two developed a close bond and were practically inseparable, but were soon separated when Jenny was sold to another circus. Decades later, though, they would find their way back to each other under the most unexpected circumstance, and their reactions would be unbelievable.

Years Of Separation

Both elephants spent years apart, still traveling in circuses. Sadly, both also went through years of hardships. Jenny lived in inadequate shelters, and was discovered severely underweight with a severely injured leg. Not only that, but she was also suffering from a degenerative foot disease. Shirley sustained severe burns on her back and legs after a fire at one of her circus stays. She sadly also had an injured hind leg after an altercation with another elephant.

Elephant Sanctuary

Twenty-two years after their separation, the two were eventually brought together at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. As caretakers watched, the two immediately recognized each other. They wrapped their trunks around each other in a loving embrace, refusing to disconnect ever again.

A Viral Moment

The reunion was featured in 2000 on The Urban Elephant, a documentary on PBS that focused on captive elephants. Viewers were extremely moved by Shirley and Jenny’s beautiful reunion. Even the caretakers at the sanctuary couldn’t help but tear up.

Elephant Sanctuary

During their time at the Elephant Sanctuary, Shirley and Jenny quickly redeveloped their surrogate mother-daughter relationship. Their tight bond ultimately helped all of the elephants at the sanctuary until the end of Jenny’s lifetime in 2006. “That was the love that started our elephant family,” admitted Carol Buckley, Executive Director of the Elephant Sanctuary. “After Shirley’s arrival, elephants who had previously been companions and friends were now sisters and aunts in the mother and daughter relationship of Shirley and Jenny. They gave the sanctuary its future.”

Watch Shirley and Jenny’s touching reunion below!

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