HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
January 22, 2007, Herald Journal

An elephant never forgets


OK, I’m a sucker for animals, animal television programs, and the like. There is a program on PBS called NATURE, and it presented a great elephant story last Sunday night.

Let me first say, I have never agreed with the use of elephants and other wild animals in the circus.

I will never go to a circus if elephants are used in the show.

This is because of the extreme abuse they have to endure in their training process of doing those stupid stunts no elephant should ever be forced into performing.

Why not focus on stupid human contortions of the body instead of giant wild animals.

Yes, it’s a feat for an elephant to perform a balancing act, but what kind of abuse did it take for that poor elephant until it gave in to its trainer?

The only way to get these elephants to do tricks is daily abuse until their spirit is broken.

I do know that it was more or less a free-for-all when training wild animals not all that long ago.

I would think that there are some regulations in place today on what trainers can and cannot do when working with these animals that may protect them a little. I’m not sure, but I hope so.

In my opinion no amount of treatment regulation would be enough. These animals should not be in a circus, period.

With that said, a story about two retired circus elephants really put into perspective that these creatures are more than just animals.

The two elephants, Shirley and Jenny, had been in the circus together, but were separated for 22 years.

Jenny was a baby when she entered the circus and Shirley was an adult that acted as a surrogate mother for Jenny in the circus days.

Jenny was attacked by a bull elephant who broke her back leg and ended her career in the circus.

She was then shipped to a zoo and was the sole elephant at that zoo for at least the last 10 years there.

She had a chain around one leg at all times while at the zoo.

The zoo couldn’t keep her anymore so she was shipped to an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee.

It would be the first time she would be around other elephants in more than 10 years, and the first time the chain would be taken off her leg in 22 years.

Upon arriving at the sanctuary, Shirley came into the barn to see what was going on, and her reaction to seeing Jenny was amazing.

Jenny immediately reacted the same way. The two were separated by a gate, but kept hugging and touching each other with their trunks.

They could not get close enough, so much so that they bent the steel gate that separated them.

Finally, the gate was opened the next day and the two were inseparable from then on.

They say an elephant never forgets. Elephant experts had never seen such behavior exhibited upon bringing a new elephant to the sanctuary.

They researched the two elephants and found out how they had been in the circus together 22 years earlier, how Jenny was a baby then, and how Shirley was her surrogate mother.

If people would take the time, they would see that animals have feelings and relationships just like humans.

No, animals are not just like humans, but much of their social system is considerably similar.

Yes, humans are supposed to be far superior, but sometimes the way we act makes you think a little.

Yes, we have opposable thumbs, we can make things, and we are on the top of the food chain.

However, we’ve also created wars, pollution, and other garbage as a side effect.

All I’m trying to say is that animals deserve respect and more credit given to them than what many people give.

Far too often, animals are on the receiving end of misuse or misconduct by humans.


It was time to go up a size in shoes for one of my boys. As we were struggling with putting his shoes on he said, “Why do shoes shrink?”