They say elephants never forget, and this video may prove it. This is an older video, but it never ceases to warm my heart. It’s the story of two elephants, Shirley and Jenny. Both had difficult lives, growing up in captivity, crippled and abused through mistreatment from handlers and other elephants.
Shirley performed for twenty-four years with the Carson and Barnes Circus. Jenny was just a calf when they met and Shirley became a surrogate mom to the young elephant. They were together briefly, chained up for 23 hours of the day, but formed an extremely close bond. Shirley was sold to a zoo, while Jenny remained as a circus performer for another 23 years.
Eventually they would find themselves together at the Elephant sanctuary in Tennessee and their reunion is nothing short of a miracle and perhaps one of the most touching and beautiful moments you will ever see.
Sadly, Jenny passed away after a few years at the sanctuary, but the bond between the two lasted right to the end. Carol Buckley is the director of the Elephant Sanctuary and she describes Jenny’s last days. “The day before she died, Jenny had been down and she wouldn’t get up. Shirley stood by her and insisted that Jenny get up. Jenny just couldn’t get up. Then Jenny stood up but she had to lean on Shirley to keep up. If you looked at Shirley’s face, you could see that she knew that Jenny was dying. Jenny dropped to the ground and Shirley walked into the woods.”
“After Shirley left, Jenny started to make this rumbling noise. With each exhalation, she would rumble. It was almost like a singing. As Jenny did this, Bunny and Tara (two sanctuary elephants) came running over. We thought that was it and she was going to die. And then Bunny and Tara started trumpeting and rumbling. At a certain point, I turned to Scott (Director of The Elephant Sanctuary) and I asked him how long this was going on. He said 58 minutes! Well, she continued for another two hours. Jenny lived through the night and was even perky and silly. She passed in the morning. And when she died, she did a vocalization that I had never heard. It was like a trumpet. It was very low and got quieter and quieter. She passed very peacefully without straining or exerting herself. To experience this ritual was amazing. I had never seen anything like it.”
But her adoptive mother Shirley was inconsolable. She stayed out in the woods and didn’t eat for two days. Carol said, “It was very hard and especially hard on Shirley. Shirley’s whole life was about taking care of baby Jenny. It was like a mom losing her baby.”
Shirley continues to spend her days at the amazing sanctuary, wandering through the woods and spending time with her many friends. She is the oldest elephant at the sanctuary.
For more information on Shirley and Jenny, please visit the Elephant Sanctuary Web site.