Shirley and her keeper, Solomon James, have a touching story to tell. Shirley’s life at the Louisiana Purchase Zoo was lonely because she was trapped in a man-made world without the company of other elephants. Solomon took care of her and made certain she knew she had one friend.
Shirley arrived in the United States as a calf and performed in circuses across the country. However, after injuring her leg, she was retired and taken in by the Louisiana Purchase Zoo. It was a selfless gesture, but the zoo only had room for one elephant.
She hadn’t seen another elephant in 22 years. It was a lonely existence for an elephant, who is a social animal. Solomon looked after her while she was at the zoo.
He made an effort to spend as much time as he could with her, comforting and entertaining her.
The staff were in for a huge surprise when Shirley arrived at the sanctuary. Her first night in a pen was with another elephant named Jenny. Throughout the night, the two elephants trumpeted and bent the bars between them, attempting to approach one another.
It was something the team had never seen before. Shirley and Jenny had both worked at the same circus nearly 25 years before. Shirley had treated Jenny as if she were a mother when she first arrived as an infant.
The two elephants were inseparable from then on. View a clip from Shirley and Solomon’s award-winning documentary The Urban Elephant.