Crippled Circus Elephants Separated for 22 Years, Then Camera Captures Emotional Reunion

By Li Yen, Epoch Times
August 2, 2019 Updated: August 6, 2019

Two crippled former circus elephants, Shirley and Jenny, had not set eyes on each other in two decades. When the two Asian elephants finally came face to face after all this time, the bonding was immediate. Their reunion was beyond touching and nothing short of phenomenal. That was probably the first time such an emotional reunion between elephants was captured on film.

The reunion happened on the evening of July 6, 1999, at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. It had been more than two decades since Shirley and Jenny first met at the circus one winter in 1973. At the time, Jenny, an elephant born wild in Sumatra in 1972, was still an infant. So, Shirley naturally took on the role of surrogate mother to her in the strange new land.

On this day in 2006, we lost our beloved ‘Jenny Jelly Bean’. Jenny lived every day of her ten years at The Sanctuary…

تم النشر بواسطة ‏‎The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee‎‏ في الأربعاء، ١٧ أكتوبر ٢٠١٢

They say “an elephant never forgets.” It’s so true. When Shirley and Jenny finally reunited after 22 years of separation, the old buddies were so determined to embrace that they even bent the steel bars keeping them apart.

After the keepers opened the steel gates, Shirley remained by Jenny’s side. The pair was seen touching each other with their trunks. With their trunks locked together, bellows of excitement could be heard.

All news reporters, cameramen, and others who were lucky enough to witness this precious moment were touched, with many reduced to tears—especially the keeper who had cared for Shirley all those years.

The moment they see one another is truly beautiful ❤

تم النشر بواسطة ‏‎InspireMore‎‏ في الأحد، ٢٣ أبريل ٢٠١٧

Jenny came to The Elephant Sanctuary in 1996 rather ill, with scars sustained from abuse as a circus elephant, according to Nature. She suffered from tuberculosis. Other than that, she had a crippled back leg caused by a bull elephant while she was kept for breeding at the Hawthorn Corporation in Illinois, as per The Elephant Sanctuary website.

Shirley, who arrived at the sanctuary years later in 1999, was perhaps the closest thing to family that Jenny would ever know. With Shirley by her side, Jenny was able to find some comfort.

The old friends often spent time together with their trunks wrapped around each other, playing, and no doubt reminiscing, after 22 years of separation.

Shirley and Jenny – Photo shown at Nov. 19, 2011 presentation by Caregiver Laurie at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee…

تم النشر بواسطة ‏‎The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee‎‏ في الجمعة، ٢٥ نوفمبر ٢٠١١

Shirley guarding Jenny while she slept – Photo shown at Nov. 19, 2011 presentation by Caregiver Laurie at The Elephant…

تم النشر بواسطة ‏‎The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee‎‏ في الجمعة، ٢٥ نوفمبر ٢٠١١

It is amazing how the years apart did nothing to dim their strong friendship, as can be witnessed in their reunion in the video uploaded by EVOLVE Campaigns on YouTube.

“So amazingly touching – the story of Shirley and Jenny, two crippled elephants reunited at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee after a 22-year separation. The bonding was immediate, intense and unforgettable between the two former circus elephants,” EVOLVE Campaigns wrote.

“It is very rare for elephants to display this kind of emotion in captivity, and it’s probably the first time such a thing has been documented on film.”

Shirley and Jenny – Photo shown at Nov. 19, 2011 presentation by Caregiver Laurie at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee…

تم النشر بواسطة ‏‎The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee‎‏ في الجمعة، ٢٥ نوفمبر ٢٠١١

The reunion scene between Shirley and Jenny has since garnered more than 23 million views, touching social media users across the globe.

“6:54: one of the most beautiful and touching things I’ve ever seen,” one user commented. Another said: “I’m a 6ft 6 tall, 250lb guy and I’m crying like a baby over this.”

“This is such a beautiful and moving story. I too am weeping. Such a wonderful friendship and what a reunion,” another remarked.

#WayBackWednesday Shirley was retired to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee from the Louisiana Purchase Zoo and Gardens…

تم النشر بواسطة ‏‎The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee‎‏ في الأربعاء، ٢٧ يوليو ٢٠١٦

The two elephants lived out their days together until Jenny became ill. Sadly, Jenny passed away on Oct. 17, 2006. Carol Buckley, the executive director at the sanctuary, described how Jenny’s last moments were.

“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. Jenny just couldn’t get up. Then Jenny stood up but she had to lean on Shirley to keep up,” said Buckley, according to Nature.

“If you looked at Shirley’s face, you could see that she knew that Jenny was dying. Jenny dropped to the ground and Shirley walked into the woods,” Buckley added.

Shirley stayed in the woods till Jenny passed away. She mourned for days after Jenny’s death, refusing all food. “It was very hard and especially hard on Shirley. Shirley’s whole life was about taking care of baby Jenny. It was like a mom losing her baby,” said Buckley.

70-year-old Asian #elephant, Shirley, is now in her 19th year at The Sanctuary. Read more about her incredible life story at

تم النشر بواسطة ‏‎The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee‎‏ في الثلاثاء، ١٨ ديسمبر ٢٠١٨

Thankfully, Shirley lives a long life. She is still staying at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, and on July 6, 2019, she celebrated her 71st birthday!

Born in Sumatra in 1948, Shirley outlives most captive Asian elephants and is the third-oldest elephant in North America. “Shirley has been through so much in her life. It is amazing how quickly she seems to trust people,” lead caregiver Kaitlin Stocks told Nashville Tennessean. “She emanates love and kindness.”

Like humans, elephants are capable of a range of emotions, complex thought, and deep feeling. The love and friendship between Jenny and Shirley is a testament to that. The beautiful bond between these two elephants reminds us how precious life is and that we should respect and care for our fellow beings on this planet, for they too have feelings.

Watch the touching reunion: