Most elephants in America live in circuses and zoos, and their lives are very different from what they would be in the wild. But there's a very special place in Tennessee called the Elephant Sanctuary
Most elephants in America live in circuses and zoos, and their lives are very different from what they would be in the wild. But there's a very special place in Tennessee called the Elephant Sanctuary, where elephants can finally have the freedom to roam and have elephant friends. Why do elephants come to the Elephant Sanctuary, and what is their everyday life like there? Some are like Shirley, who performed in a circus before an injury forced early retirement and a transfer to a zoo. She lived at the zoo for many years and received good care, but she didn't have elephant friends. Then plans were made for Shirley to move to the Elephant Sanctuary, a place just for elephants. It was a big surprise to everyone when Shirley recognized another elephant when she arrived--they greeted each other with great excitement and joy and lots of trumpeting. Jenny had been a baby elephant at the circus where Shirley had worked so long ago. (Elephants do remember!) Shirley and Jenny spent that first night standing close, with their trunks wrapped around each other. And in the morning, Jenny led Shirley outside to explore the fields and ponds and woods and meet all the other elephants. Now Shirley has a special family, in a place just for elephants.
View Biographical note
Carol Buckley is the author of Travels with Tarra, which tells the story of her life with one elephant and her decision to co-found the Elephant Sanctuary with Scott Blais. The Elephant Sanctuary now provides a home for 19 elephants on 2,700 acres, and is making room for more elephants who need to live in a place just for elephants.
View Review text
"Irresistible is not a word we . . . use lightly, but this book truly is hard to put down."
". . . some of the story's most engaging images depict Shirley frolicking about with her new herd. Even youngest readers will be able to intuit the anxiety Shirley faces on her first day in the wild, much like being the new kid in school."
"This amazing book reveals the complexity and intelligence of elephants. Jenny and Shirley's story shows us the strength of the bonds between individual elephants, their amazing memories, and their ability to feel and express intense emotions. From studies of wild, free-living elephants we know enough about their social needs to realize that we can no longer justify the practice of keeping elephants on their own or splitting up individuals who have formed bonds. I hope the example of Jenny and Shirley will make people stop and think before capturing elephants in the wild, wrenching them from their close companions, and then moving them here and there as if they were artwork on display."
—Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, Langata, Nairobi
View Description for teachers/educators
emotional needs of captive, exotic animals, and it leads us to question what their "rights" in our society ought to be. Carol Buckley, Scott Blais, and others whose lifework is connected to the well-being of animals, say it's time to change the way we humans relate to animals. Their idea is that people should think of themselves as "animal caregivers" rather than as "animal owners." Then, other attitudes will change and the result will be that animals everywhere will lead better lives.
Just For Elephants will help inspire classroom conversations about:
What is known about the emotions of animals
Friendships between animals
Matching the emotional and physical needs of animals to their care, if they are in captivity
The concept of a "natural-habitat sanctuary"
Endangered animals and animal rights
Jobs that involve the care and protection of animals
The culture of zoos and circuses
Visit the website of the Elephant Sanctuary. There are many activities available there which are designed to teach children all about elephants.
Have students learn about how elephants live and are cared for in their native Asian and African countries.
Have students discuss what they can do to promote the well-being of exotic animals in captivity.
In many states there are laws pending that would prohibit the use of elephants and other large exotics in traveling circuses. Have students discuss why this is being proposed and what they think about it.