After 22 Years Alone in Captivity, a Zookeeper Releases an Elephant

Research in recent years has helped us learn more about elephants. As we have learned, they are kind, gentle creatures with genuine feelings. They are able to build close relationships and recall other elephants and even people they haven’t seen in a long time.


Even zoo animals who have received the best care possible in zoos are unable to have lives that even remotely resemble those in the wild.
They lack space to wander and, more crucially, they frequently do not have other elephants to socialize with in zoos. Since they are very gregarious creatures, company is crucial for their emotional well-being.

The Louisiana Purchase Zoo took Shirley, an elephant, in after she was hurt while participating in a circus. She was the only elephant living there, and they did their best to take care of her. Her human caregiver, Solomon James, was her closest buddy for 22 years. He gave the elephant as much time as he could to show her how much he cared.

The zoo arranged for Shirley to visit the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary in 2003. Solomon would have to bid his pal farewell as a result.
He says, with tears in his eyes, “I’m going to miss her.” However, after seeing this location, I assured her that there would be no more shackles. I’m not sure who was the first to shackle her with a chain, but I’m glad I was the last to remove it. She is finally liberated.

Shirley is reunited with Jenny, an elephant she knew from the circus years earlier, when she gets to the sanctuary. They have become inseparable.

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