Zookeeper Finally Sees His Elephant Free After 50 Years In Captivity

The Urban Elephant is an award-winning account of an elephant named Shirley and her keeper, Solomon. After Shirley was relieved of her nightmarish life in the circus, she spent over 20 years inside a Louisiana zoo, longing for the companionship of other elephants.

Solomon was Shirley’s keeper for over two decades. The two shared an incredible bond, and Solomon grew to recognize and understand Shirley’s sense of loneliness as she remained trapped in a man-made world. Solomon spent as much time as he could trying to comfort her and shower her with affection, but deep down he knew that Shirley needed freedom and fellow elephant friends.

In 2003, the zoo finally agreed to send Shirley to The Elephant Sanctuary, which provides hundreds of acres where elephants wander free or relax inside heated barns. In the video below, Solomon travels with Shirley to help her settle into her new home, but I should warn you that you’ll need to keep your tissues close. It’s a bittersweet goodbye, to say the least; Solomon breaks down in tears as he bathes Shirley for the last time, but he knows she’ll finally be happy.

Just when you think this video couldn’t be any more amazing, Shirley is unexpectedly reunited with an elephant from her past — and her reaction is something you don’t want to miss…

For 22 years, Solomon was Shirley’s keeper at a Louisiana zoo. Solomon loved Shirley, and she loved him back. Her daily baths became their favorite past time together.

urban elephant shirleys story

But Shirley was far from happy. She longed for the companionship of other elephants, and only knew life in captivity, be it a circus or zoo. Solomon spent as much time as he could with Shirley, but he knew it wasn’t the type of companionship she truly needed.

urban elephant shirleys story

In 2003, the zoo finally sent Shirley to what the video below calls “a little piece of heaven carved out of the rolling hills of Tennessee.” The Elephant Sanctuary was the complete opposite of the zoo. Here, Shirley could finally roam free and be surrounded by other elephants just like her!

urban elephant shirleys story

Solomon accompanied Shirley to her new home. He broke down in tears as they shared their final moments together.

urban elephant shirleys story

“I am going to miss her,” he says. “But when I saw this place I told her that there will be no more chains. 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.”

urban elephant shirleys story

Another elephant named Jenny arrived at the sanctuary. That night, the staff was stunned by the overjoyed sound of elephants trumpeting. In a shocking turn of events, it was discovered that Shirley and Jenny worked together in the same circus 30 years earlier! Jenny was just a baby, and Shirley was like a surrogate mother. Free and together, at last.

urban elephant shirleys story

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