Shirley was wild born in Sumatra in 1948 and captured from the wild in 1953. She performed for 30 years with a succession of circuses before being sold to the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo where she lived for another 23 years.
Crippled by a broken leg which she sustained during her time in the circus Shirley also survived a ship fire which injured her ear and left her with scars on her back, side and feet. In 1958, while the circus was traveling through Cuba, Fidel Castro seized power. Shirley and the entire circus were held captive by Castroís forces for several weeks before being set free.
At age 51, Shirley was retired to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. In the remarkable video below you can watch the reaction between Shirley and another sanctuary elephant, Jenny, who havenít seen each other for more than 20 years.