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Shirley, second oldest elephant in North America, dies at age 72 at Tennessee elephant sanctuary

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Posted at 5:30 PM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 19:30:22-05

HOHENWALD, Tenn. (WTVF) — Shirley, the second oldest elephant in all of North America, has passed away at 72. She retired to The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, in 1999.

Shirley defied the odds, living far beyond the life expectancy for an Asian elephant.

Veterinary teams had been closely monitoring Shirley over the past several weeks. She weakened to the point where she could no longer stand up. The staff agreed that, as Shirley was communicating her needs and wishes — that her time had come.

She was born in Sumatra in 1948 and was captured and sold to a circus, where she performed around the world for decades.

Eventually, she was sold to a Louisiana Zoo before she ended up at the sanctuary where she had a joyous reunion with another elephant who had performed with her at that circus years earlier.

“The Sanctuary is deeply honored to have provided care for Shirley for 21 years. We thank Shirley’s many supporters, fans, and friends who have shared her story, who have loved her from afar, and who have partnered with us through the years to provide lifetime care and the opportunity for Shirley to know true companionship with other elephants. We learned so much about the dignity and grace of elephants aging in captivity through caring for Shirley, and we will continue to apply this knowledge to help care for all current and future residents. Shirley leaves an enduring legacy marked by a truly remarkable life, and she will be deeply missed by all,” said Janice Zeitlin, CEO of The Elephant Sanctuary.

This article was written by Nick Beres for WTVF.