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Carol Buckley’s elephant sanctuary really pachs ‘em in!

Billie the ElephantWhen Carol Buckley adopted Tarra in 1974 while studying exotic-animal training in Moorpark, Ca she had no idea the 700-pound baby elephant would guide the course of the rest of her life. Purchased from a salesman who was keeping her in the back of a delivery truck to promote his tire store, Tarra formed such a close bond with her new owner that Buckley felt she had to explore every avenue that would let her work and stay close to her beloved pet. “The world is not designed for girl and elephant to be together,” she says. So for the next 20 years, Buckley and Tarra performed as a team in circuses, zoos and amusement parks, until Buckley sensed that Tarra had grown tired of the life in the spotlight. That’s when she began to imagine a place where elephants like Tarra could retire and not be used for commercial purposes. In 1995, that dream materialized when she bought 112 acres in Hohenwald, TN and called it The Elephant Sanctuary.

The sanctuary, now 2,700 acres, is the nations’ only natural habitat refuge for old, sick or needy elephants. It has 19 residents. Some were rescued from abusive situations, others came from life in captivity where they were branded “dangerous”, and many came from zoos and circuses. Surviving on donations received through its website, the organization invites visitors to view pictures, read each elephant’s (sometimes heart-wrenching) story, and even watch them live on the “Elecam”. There’s no golf or shuffleboard, but the residents seem to be enjoying their retirement so far. “The first thing elephants discover when they get here is that they’re never going to be told what to do again,” says Buckley. “They can decide what to do and when.”

Emily McCombs Bust Magazine



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