When Jenny was a calf, she was in the same circus as Shirley, who was in her twenties. They spent a winter together performing in the Carson and Barnes Circus across Texas in the late 1970s. But Shirley and Jenny were separated and did not see each other for 22 years.
Shirley "retired" to the Louisiana Purchase Zoo after sustaining a leg injury. There, she lived for 22 years without seeing another elephant. However, female elephants need to be around other elephants.
Solomon was Shirley's zookeeper at the Louisiana Purchase Zoo for the 22 years Shirley lived there. “I am going to miss her. But when I saw this place I told her that there will be no more chains. She is free now. I don’t know who was the first to put a chain on her but I am glad to know I was the last to take it off. She is free at last," said Solomon.
When Jenny arrived at the Elephant Sanctuary, she was reunited with Shirley after their 22-year-long separation. The connection was instant. The two were put in separate cages but bent the metal bars trying to be near one another.
According to Buckley, their reunion was "dramatic." Jenny and Shirley became inseparable. "There was an immediate urgency in Jenny's behavior. She wanted to get close to Shirley who was divided by two stalls," said Buckley. "She became agitated, banging on the gate and trying to climb through and over."
But once things settled down, Shirley and Jenny became inseparable. The two would spend their days outside, side-by-side. "This relationship is intense and resembles that of mother and daughter. We are so blessed," said Buckley.
According to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, elephants form lasting bonds with other elephants. "'Our work shows that they are able recognize their friends and renew these bonds even after being apart for a long time," says Dr. Shermin de Silva, author of the study. So it is true that elephants never forget!
10. 'Reunited And It Feels So Good'
Jenny and Shirley's heartwarming reunion was documented by PBS. Watch their reunion here and be prepared to bawl like a baby!