10 Jul 2018

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What does "Shirley survived a capture attempt" mean?

Was Shirley captured but survived?
Shirley could successfully ran away without being captured?

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is busy planning a super-sized birthday celebration for one of their senior residents.

According to Kate Mason, communications coordinator for the sanctuary in Hohenwald, Shirley, an Asian elephant, turned 70 years old on July 6. That is a remarkable milestone with the average lifespan of captive elephants being 42 years for Asians and 47 years for Africans.

Shirley would have an amazing life story to tell, if only she could talk.

Born in Sumatra in 1948, Shirley was captured at age 5 from the wild and sold to a traveling circus, where she entertained audiences for more than 20 years. Over those two decades, Shirley survived the immense physical and emotional impact suffered by many captive elephants used for entertainment and financial gain.

Her story is largely about survival, and her many near-death experiences during her time traveling with the circus.

Around 1958, Shirley survived a capture attempt by Fidel Castro’s forces in Cuba. She walked away from a highway vehicle accident that killed two other elephants. Then in 1963, the circus ship Shirley was traveling on caught fire and partly sank. While she survived, the accident left Shirley with burns on her back, side and feet. A more severe burn also caused her to lose part of her right ear.

After an altercation with another elephant in 1974, Shirley suffered a broken leg that eventually ended her circus days. In 1977, the Louisiana Purchase Zoo and Gardens became Shirley’s new home, where she served as the sole elephant resident for 22 years.

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