HOHENWALD, TN (WKRN) — Tarra the beloved elephant who garnered national attention at The Elephant Sanctuary in Lewis County reunited Thursday with her rightful owner Carol Buckley. With the decadelong custody battle for the 7,000-pound animal finally over, the two now head to Georgia.
“We’re ready. We’re absolutely ready for her,” said Buckley.
She’s waited more than a decade to be reunited with Tarra the elephant she’s owned, and loved, since 1974. “That was the beginning of the rest, which has been 47 years,” Buckley explained.
But the story of these two friends took a detour when Buckley was ousted from The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, which she started in 1995. “I really stayed in denial for quite some time thinking that I would wake up in the morning and everything would be fine.”
She sued for wrongful dismissal and visitation rights with Tarra, among other complaints. The legal back-and-forth continued for 11 years until the final ruling in October 2021 affirmed Tarra is Buckley’s animal and the sanctuary in TN must release her.
Buckley called Tarra her motivation. All her perseverance led to Thursday. Tarra loaded into a trailer and headed to Buckley’s new sanctuary in South Georgia called the Elephant Refuge North America.
Buckley anticipated Tarra’s excitement. “I have no doubt that she’s gonna see me and start chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp – If you’re their friend, then they’re loyal to you. They’re kind, they’re fun, they’re playful, and that’s a lifetime. That’s a lifelong bond.”
Tarra will be greeted by another elephant “Bo” who already calls the 850-acre refuge home.
“I am so looking forward to the future. You know the past is a blur. It’s behind me. It doesn’t matter. The fact is that Tarra is coming home,” said Buckley.
News 2 reached out to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. They provided the following statement:
“It has been a difficult day. We are deeply disappointed with the decision to relocate Tarra away from her home of 26 years and her elephant companions Sissy and Nosey. The sanctuary will be forever grateful for her legacy as our founding elephant.”