After More Than Two Decades Apart, Elephants Are Reunited. Their Reactions Will Make You Cry

Updated July 12, 2017

Torn apart for more than 22-years, Shirley and Jenny, two elephants crippled because of the bondage they were forced to endure, were finally reunited at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee back in 2000. Although they had not seen each other in decades, the elephants immediately remembered each other and jumped right back into their former friendship. The connection was obvious and their intense love for each other manifested visibly as they were released into freedom as friends again. Like the two Gorilla brothers reunited after years apart – these two elephants showed that they have love for each other like humans do. Check out the viral video below to see the heartwarming reunion and to learn more about Shirley and Jenny.

Before cruel humans tore them apart, Shirley had stepped in as a mother figure for Jenny. Jenny had been just a baby when they first met at the circus. Because Shirley and Jenny shared such an intense and emotional bond, the Executive Director of the Elephant Sanctuary, Carol Buckley, believed the bond between these two long-lost companions could change the energy at the sanctuary forever. She shared the following words with PBS.org.

“That was the love that started our elephant family,” Buckley said. “After Shirley’s arrival, elephants who had previously been companions and friends were now sisters and aunts in the mother and daughter relationship of Shirley and Jenny. They gave the sanctuary its future.”

Unfortunately, Shirley and Jenny’s lifelong bond was ended too soon when Jenny died in October 17, 2006. Her death came 10 years after she first arrived in the sanctuary and six years after being reunited with Shirley.

When she first arrived at the Tennessee sanctuary, Jenny was ill. Her abusive circus owners had beaten her and misused her. She was covered in wounds and scars. She had been exposed to tuberculosis and was assaulted by a bull elephant. As a result of her hardship, Jenny had a defective back leg and struggled to move about.

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Although the video shows the moment Shirley and Jenny are reunited, Buckley said their bond was never strong than the last few days Jenny was alive.

“The day before she died, Jenny had been down and she wouldn’t get up. Shirley stood by her and insisted that Jenny get up. Jenny just couldn’t get up. Then Jenny stood up but she had to lean on Shirley to keep up. If you looked at Shirley’s face, you could see that she knew that Jenny was dying. Jenny dropped to the ground and Shirley walked into the woods.”

Jenny was dying when Shirley walked into the woods, but allowed Jenny’s caregivers to help ease her pain in her last moments.

“After Shirley left, Jenny started to make this rumbling noise. With each exhalation, she would rumble. It was almost like a singing. As Jenny did this, Bunny and Tara (two sanctuary elephants) came running over. We thought that was it and she was going to die. And then Bunny and Tara started trumpeting and rumbling. At a certain point, I turned to Scott (Director of The Elephant Sanctuary) and I asked him how long this was going on. He said 58 minutes! Well, she continued for another two hours. Jenny lived through the night and was even perky and silly. She passed in the morning. And when she died, she did a vocalization that I had never heard. It was like a trumpet. It was very low and got quieter and quieter. She passed very peacefully without straining or exerting herself. To experience this ritual was amazing. I had never seen anything like it.”

Watch the reunion below!

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