Allow me to present the heartwarming tale of Shirley and her caretaker, Solomon James. Trapped within an artificial world, Shirley’s life at the Louisiana Purchase Zoo was a solitary one, devoid of the companionship of fellow elephants. However, Solomon faithfully looked after her, ensuring she knew she had a true friend.
Shirley was just a young calf when she arrived in the United States and became part of circus performances across the nation. However, after sustaining a leg injury, she was retired and welcomed into the Louisiana Purchase Zoo as an act of charity. Unfortunately, the zoo had space for only one elephant.
For a staggering 22 years, Shirley never encountered another elephant. This existence of solitude was particularly difficult for a social creature like an elephant. Throughout her time at the zoo, Solomon took care of her, devoting as much time as possible to provide comfort and companionship.
In 2003, after years of anticipation, the zoo arranged for Shirley to be transferred to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, a place described as a “little piece of heaven.” Finally, Shirley would have the opportunity to roam freely and be amongst other elephants.
As the time to bid farewell drew near, Solomon couldn’t contain his emotions and tears flowed from his eyes. “I will miss her,” he expressed. “But when I saw this sanctuary, I assured her that there would be no more chains. I may not know who initially restrained her, but I’m grateful to be the one to remove the final chain. She is now free at last.”
Upon arriving at the sanctuary, the staff were in for an extraordinary surprise. During her first night, Shirley was housed in an enclosure adjacent to another elephant named Jenny. Throughout the night, the two elephants trumpeted and attempted to reach one another, bending the bars that separated them.
This remarkable display was unprecedented for the staff. It was later revealed that Shirley and Jenny had worked together in the same circus nearly 25 years prior. Shirley had cared for Jenny like a mother when the latter first arrived as an infant.
From that point forward, the inseparable bond between the two elephants was forged. Witness their extraordinary journey in a clip from “The Urban Elephant,” an award-winning documentary showcasing the remarkable connection between Shirley and Solomon.
Share Shirley’s emotional odyssey with your loved ones and friends!