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In remembrance’s fine April 3 Kitchen Table Kibitzing diary, there was a discussion of elephants off her Tip Jar, in which I mentioned that I had an elephant diary to do soon. She sent me a kosmail a few days ago to see if I would write that diary for Kitchen Table Kibitzing, and I agreed!

Elephants have been on my mind a lot lately because one of the two elderly female elephants in our local zoo died in early March. Her death coincided with the notification that there would no longer be elephants here locally, because of requirements that zoos have a minimum of three elephants (as they are social creatures), with minimum space requirements for them that could not be met. Both elephants were female, in their forties. So plans were being made for the relocation of the remaining elephant.

For the sake of curiosity, I spent some time researching options, and found a remarkable place, the Elephant Sanctuary, in Hohenwald, TN. Here is the description from their website, on the page about Sanctuary visits.

The Elephant Sanctuary is operated as a true sanctuary, and therefore is not open to the general public. Our elephants have lived their entire lives on exhibit, entertaining the public. Our goal is to create an environment where the elephants are not disturbed by human activity. The Elephant Sanctuary exists for two reasons: to provide a haven for old, sick or needy elephants in a setting of green pastures, old-growth forests, spring-fed ponds and a heated barn for cold winter nights; and to provide education about the crisis facing these social, complex, and exceedingly intelligent animals.

The Elephant Sanctuary does provide the public with a select number of ways to observe, learn and support The Elephant Sanctuary both on and off property without restricting the movements of our elephants or intruding on their sanctuary.

So, sanctuary visits are possible, but they will happen without any contact with the elephants. Once a month throughout the year the Sanctuary offers volunteer opportunities, but those don’t involve any direct contact with the elephants, either, and the day may well pass without even seeing an elephant in the distance.

They do have an ‘Elecam’ system, with 14 discreet cameras throughout the Sanctuary offering possible, non-intrusive views of elephants.

In checking out the website I read about the Sanctuary’s oldest elephant, Shirley. Tomorrow, the Elephant Sanctuary will celebrate Shirley’s 66th birthday, and 15 years at the Sanctuary, so I wanted to write about her.

Shirley is crippled, as a result of a broken leg suffered in an attack by a fellow circus elephant over 30 years ago. You can see pictures of her on her Sanctuary page. To me she is quite beautiful!

The most amazing thing I read was the story of Shirley’s arrival at the Sanctuary, in 1999. There she found an elephant already in residence, Jenny, that she had known from a circus they shared many years before. We have heard it said that they never forget, but there is no question that they never forgot each other! The reunion was captured on video. If you have a few moments, I think you will find it worth a view. It brought/brings tears to my eyes.


May we each know glimpses of the love Shirley and Jenny shared.

If you can make a donation to the Elephant Sanctuary, it may be done from this page.


Kitchen Table Kibitzing is a community series for those who wish to share part of the evening around a virtual kitchen table with kossacks who are caring and supportive of one another. So bring your stories, jokes, photos, funny pics, music, and interesting videos, as well as links—including quotations—to diaries, news stories, and books that you think this community would appreciate. Readers may notice that most who post diaries and comments in this series already know one another to some degree, but newcomers should not feel excluded. We welcome guests at our kitchen table, and hope to make some new friends as well.

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