Shirley the elephant was born in the wild in 1948 and was sadly captured when she was just five years old. She spent the majority of her life in a traveling circus, where she sustained injuries that were left untreated.
She was eventually sold to the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo in Monroe, LA, where she was the only elephant there. Eventually, Shirley was rescued and went to live at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.
Jenny, another elephant, was born in the wild in 1972 and was captured at a young age. She spent one winter with a circus, where she met Shirley. Jenny hated being in the circus and would constantly try to get away from her trainers. Eventually, they couldn’t handle it anymore, so they sent her to Illinois to be used for breeding. While in Illinois, a bull elephant severely injured her leg, which was left untreated.
A year later, they deemed her “useless” for breeding and sold her to a circus where she was kept in a trailer for the majority of the time. She was ignored, left untreated, and was quickly deteriorating. Thankfully, she ended up at The Elephant Sanctuary where Shirley was already living.
Now Shirley and Jenny’s paths were finally crossing again. The last time they saw each other, Jenny was only a calf, while Shirley was in her twenties. Staff was unsure of what their reunion would be like. Would they remember each other? Would they still be as close as they used to be? Would they hate each other? Would their unique bond return?
Fortunately, they got their reunion on film, and it’s beyond amazing! According to the sanctuary, their bonding was immediate, intense and unforgettable. They say it is very rare for elephants to display this kind of emotion in captivity.
At first, it’s like they didn’t recognize each other. But suddenly, Jenny tried to get closer to Shirley. Once they made eye contact, Shirley erupted into a huge baritone roar. Shirley roared and gently touched Jenny’s face. It was clear that they remembered each other. What a heart-warming moment! It just goes to show that animals can feel love just like humans do!
After their reunion, Shirley took on the role of surrogate mother to Jenny. Although Jenny was now an adult, she was just a baby when she and Shirley first met at the circus.