Rescued Circus Elephants Reunite After 22 Years— The Unforgettable Moment Is Melting Hearts

We all love elephants. These smart and soft creatures are fun, social, and playful.They are known for their huge hearts and have an emphasized emotional side.

Unfortunately, many elephants suffer a lot due to human cruelty. At a young age, two elephants, Shirley and Jenny, were captured by a circus.

Jenny was born wild in Sumatra in 1972, and after she was captured, she spent the next winter with a circus that owned Shirley, who became her maternal figure, “her comfort and mother in this strange new land.”

Yet, they were soon separated, unaware that they will be reunited again after many years.

On September 11, 1996, Jenny was brought at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, becoming its third resident.

Shirley got injured at the age of 27 while traveling with the Lewis Brothers Circus. After two years, she was sold to the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo in Monroe, LA, where she lived for 22 years and was the sole elephant at the zoo.

She was brought to The Elephant Sanctuary in July 1999 and joined the three other elephants, Tarra, Jenny, and Barbara. For the first time ever, she was free to enjoy life, and she was not afraid that someone would hurt her.

According to the sanctuary:

“One July evening three years later, Jenny returned to the barn to discover that a new elephant arrived. She seemed very anxious to meet the new resident, but it was soon realized that her intense emotional reaction to Shirley was much more than a casual greeting—it was a reunion!

The two friends haven’t seen each other for over 20 years! Their reunion warmed millions of hearts worldwide, as it showed that a true bond of friendship cannot be broken by time nor distance!


It eventually became the subject of an Emmy-winning National Geographic documentary “The Urban Elephant.”

When Jenny walked into the shelter, and let out the loudest shriek that any of the volunteers had ever heard. She approached her old friend, and the two elephants embraced.

They kept on hugging and touching each other, and during the night, they “have bent the steel bars between them.” When the gate between their cages was finally opened, Shirley stepped through to greeted her friend.

Carol Buckley, the sanctuary’s executive director, explained:

“That was the love that started our elephant family. 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.”

They finally got the chance to enjoy life together. The two amazing creatures were inseparable, “sharing a deep affection much like a mother/daughter relationship.”

They spent their time walking about, and the older elephant would shelter the younger one from the sun. Unfortunately, after a long illness, Jenny died on October 17, 2006, surrounded by people and elephants who loved her dearly.

Volunteers at the sanctuary reported that Shirley was in great pain due to the loss of her dearest friend.

Buckley explained:

“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… Then Jenny stood up but she had to lean on Shirley to keep up. If you looked at Shirley’s face, you could see she knew that Jenny was dying. Jenny dropped to the ground and Shirley walked into the woods.”

She didn’t eat for two days.

Yet, she eventually recovered, and she is now the oldest elephant at the sanctuary and the third oldest one in North America.

Stephanie DeYoung, Director of Husbandry, claims that Shirley “ possesses a keen intelligence that is astounding” and adds that despite all the pain she has suffered, she “travels daily throughout her expansive habitat and still chooses to be an active participant in her care.”