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Just for Elephants
Most elephants in America live in circuses and zoos, and their lives are very different from what they would be in the wild. But there's a very special place in Tennessee called the Elephant Sanctuary, where elephants can finally have the freedom to roam and have elephant friends. Why do elephants come to the Elephant Sanctuary, and what is their everyday life like there? Some are like Shirley, who performed in a circus before an injury forced early retirement and a transfer to a zoo. She lived at the zoo for many years and received good care, but she didn't have elephant friends. Then plans were made for Shirley to move to the Elephant Sanctuary, a place just for elephants. It was a big surprise to everyone when Shirley recognized another elephant when she arrived -- they greeted each other with great excitement and joy and lots of trumpeting. Jenny had been a baby elephant at the circus where Shirley had worked so long ago. (Elephants do remember!) Shirley and Jenny spent that first night standing close, with their trunks wrapped around each other. And in the morning, Jenny led Shirley outside to explore the fields and ponds and woods and meet all the other elephants.
Now Shirley has a special family, in a place just for elephants. "This amazing book reveals the complexity and intelligence of elephants. Jenny and Shirley's story shows us the strength of the bonds between individual elephants, their amazing memories, and their ability to feel and express intense emotions. From studies of wild, free-living elephants we know enough about their social needs to realize that we can no longer justify the practice of keeping elephants on their own or splitting up individuals who have formed bonds. I hope the example of Jenny and Shirley will make people stop and think before capturing elephants in the wild, wrenching them from their close companions, and then moving them here and there as if they were artwork on display." --Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, Langata, Nairobia.
- Book Sense 2007 Spring Children's Picks List
- Skipping Stones Honor Award for Nature/Ecology Books
- KIND Children's Honor Book
"Irresistible is not a word we . . . use lightly, but this book truly is hard to put down."
". . . some of the story's most engaging images depict Shirley frolicking about with her new herd. Even youngest readers will be able to intuit the anxiety Shirley faces on her first day in the wild, much like being the new kid in school."
"This amazing book reveals the complexity and intelligence of elephants. Jenny and Shirley's story shows us the strength of the bonds between individual elephants, their amazing memories, and their ability to feel and express intense emotions. From studies of wild, free-living elephants we know enough about their social needs to realize that we can no longer justify the practice of keeping elephants on their own or splitting up individuals who have formed bonds. I hope the example of Jenny and Shirley will make people stop and think before capturing elephants in the wild, wrenching them from their close companions, and then moving them here and there as if they were artwork on display."
—Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, Langata, Nairobi
Teachers Take Note:
Just For Elephants will help inspire classroom conversations about:
- What is known about the emotions of animals
- Friendships between animals
- Matching the emotional and physical needs of animals to their care, if they are in captivity
- The concept of a "natural-habitat sanctuary"
- Endangered animals and animal rights
- Jobs that involve the care and protection of animals
- The culture of zoos and circuses
- Visit the website of the Elephant Sanctuary. There are many activities available there which are designed to teach children all about elephants.
- Have students learn about how elephants live and are cared for in their native Asian and African countries.
- Have students discuss what they can do to promote the well-being of exotic animals in captivity.
- In many states there are laws pending that would prohibit the use of elephants and other large exotics in traveling circuses. Have students discuss why this is being proposed and what they think about it.
- The Elephant Sanctuary
This is the official website of the Sanctuary, and it features photographs and information about Shirley, Jenny, Tarra, and all the other elephants at the Sanctuary. They don't allow visitors at the Sanctuary (just for elephants, remember?), but you can watch real-time streaming video of the elephants via their Elecam. Their website offers elephant curriculum materials at two levels that teachers can easily download, links to other websites, and much more.
- African Elephants and Cynthia Moss
Visit the website of a leading expert on African elephant family structures, life cycle, and behavior and read about her work with elephants.
- The Humane Society of the United States
This site offers extensive information about the treatment of captive animals and other issues.
- The Emotional Life of Animals
The PBS Television series Nature has produced programs that discuss the ideas scientists have about the role emotions play in the animal world. It seems there is agreement that stress is one emotional characteristic many animals share with humans. Visit this website to learn about the effects of stress on animal health