Former circus elephant celebrates 70th birthday at TN sanctuary - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Former circus elephant celebrates 70th birthday at TN sanctuary

Shirley exploring her home at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.  (Source: The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee) Shirley exploring her home at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. (Source: The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee)
LEWIS COUNTY, TN (WMC) -

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is asking for well wishes as one of its inhabitants celebrates her 70th birthday.

Located in Lewis County, The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee exists to provide a safe haven for elephants who have spent their lives in captivity. 

The organization was founded in 1995 and has provided refuge for 27 elephants. There are currently 10 elephants living in a closed to the public 2,700-acre habitat.

One of those elephants is Shirley. Friday, she turns 70 years old.

She was born in 1948 in Asia. She was captured when she was just 5 years old and placed in a circus that PETA says is one of the worst in the world.

At the age of 15, she was severely burned on her back and legs when a fire broke out in the engine room of the circus ship.

At the age of 27, her right hind leg was broken in an altercation with another elephant at the circus. Two years later, Shirley was sold to the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo. She spent the next 22 years of her life at that zoo.

On July 6, 1999, Shirley was reunited at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee with an elephant she spent time with decades earlier in the zoo. That reunion is the subject of an Emmy-winning National Geographic documentary.

Shirley is the oldest elephant at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. She's the third oldest Asian elephant in North America

As she turns 70, The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is raising awareness about Shirley's story and other elephants in captivity. The group is posting on social media with #ShirleyTurns70

Also, if you're interested in helping Shirley and other elephants at The Sanctuary, click here.

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