It’s been said that elephants never forget and many in Yarmouth have also never forgotten Shirley the elephant – remembering her on her birthdays are now mourning her on her death.
Shirley was a much-beloved survivor of the 1963 circus ship fire that happened in Yarmouth’s harbour.
She died on Feb. 22 at the age of 72, at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, where she had been cared for since first arriving in 1999.
She was the sanctuary’s oldest elephant and held the record for being the second oldest elephant in North America, according to the sanctuary’s website, which also said Shirley had lived well beyond the life expectancy of a captive Asian elephant.
On social media, people living in Yarmouth expressed sadness about the elephant’s passing. “Rest in peace Shirley. You were the epitome of resilience,” wrote a commenter on the We Love Yarmouth Facebook page.
Her passing also rekindled memories of the fire nearly 58 years ago.
The Tennessee sanctuary says through the years Shirley’s care had included such things as specialized foot soaks, daily arthritis supplements and cold laser therapy to reduce the discomfort associated with a long-ago broken leg, arthritis and other joint conditions.
She’d have sunscreen and botanica cream applied to her thinning skin to prevent or treat sunburn.
In recent weeks, according to a posting on the sanctuary’s website, the staff and veterinary teams had noticed changes, particularly in her mobility.
“Many mornings when staff arrived at the barn, Shirley appeared bright, alert, and responsive, but into the afternoon would show increased signs of weakness, fatigue, and discomfort,” the website said.
Staff doted on her. She loved the affection.
“Jellybeans, a favourite treat, were offered with regularity recently,” the website stated. “Knowing that Shirley loved all but the liquorice-flavoured beans, staff would carefully pick them out from the bunch.”
By Sunday evening, Feb. 21, Shirley’s breathing had shallowed, and after laying down in a barn she showed no interest in getting up. She was given medications to keep her comfortable and died in the early morning hours of Monday, Feb. 22, surrounded by her caregivers…
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