Carol Buckley is one of the most interesting and wonderful women I have met in a long time. Originally from California, Carol began a career in elephant management 24 years ago when she started working with Tarra an Asian elephant. Tarra had been sold to an animal broker at six months old and flown to the U.S. from Thailand in a wooden crate. Carol purchased Tarra from her first U.S. owner, a car dealer who bought her for advertising purposes and named her Fluffy.
"I was quite young when I began my career. I wanted to be with elephants. I thought all elephants worked in circuses," Carol says. "So, that's where I started. I've worked with Tarra and other elephants at zoos, in circuses, in studios and in all the different fields that you find elephants." For two decades Carol and Tarra entertained audiences in circus, amusement parks, zoos, on television and in motion pictures. In 1980 Tarra became the world's only roller skating elephant. Tarra also paints, and has been the featured artist at shows and galleries across the U.S.
Through her career, Carol became nationally renowned as an elephant management expert. Her reputation grew out of her extraordinary love and understanding of elephants and because she treats them with respect and a supportive attitude. As Carol progressed in her career, as she developed spiritually, and as her love and respect for Tarra grew, she experienced an increasing desire to educate people about the needs of elephants. She wanted to educate people about the needs of elephants and how they suffer when these needs are not met. This led her and Tarra to zoos. She initially thought that the best situation for elephants would be in a zoo setting because their focus is on the animals. Carol was sad and disappointed to find that zoos fell very short of what elephants need to be provided with.
At that time Carol hadn't really formulated what her goal was and she began to ask herself what she was really being called to do. As she listened for the answer, she realized what she really loved and enjoyed about the elephants was their majestic, intelligent and spiritual presence when they weren't performing or working. "I most enjoyed elephants when I could take them out in the woods and just let them be. If I could do anything, I'd just be with elephants and just let them be elephants." Another reason for Carol's growing interest in elephant welfare was her increasing gratitude to Tarra who had helped to support her for so many years and from whom she had learned so much.
With these thoughts in mind, Carol began to dream about a natural habitat sanctuary in which her beloved Tarra and other performing elephants could live out their years. For the next decade she shared her dream with anyone who would listen. The initial response was fairly negative. People commented that she would never find the land to do it, and that if the elephants weren't going to work and perform to make money it just wouldn't work financially. "Our goal was to provide for the elephants. We didn't want them to have to work to financially support themselves." Though discouraged, Carol never lost faith but continued to look for a way to make the sanctuary work. Carol held fast to her vision and people began to come out of the woodwork to help. Land was purchased in Hohenwald, Tennessee and bout 800 individuals became friends of the sanctuary. Their donations, along with Carol's own savings pay for the feed and care of Tarra as well as Barbara and Jenny the sanctuaries newer residents.
Two new elephants will be added to the sanctuary this fall. The sanctuary will support an additional 10 elephants in the future. Carol and her partner Scott Blais hope the sanctuary can become a prototype for others to follow. The Elephant Sanctuary is the first natural habitat refuge for elephants in the nation and what Carol had always dreamed of, a place of love where elephants can just be elephants. A refuge where sick, old and needy elephants who have been retired from zoos and circuses can once more roam the world in freedom and dignity.
The thing that continues to impress me about Carol Buckley is her undaunted devotion to elephant welfare and her willingness to continue expanding her knowledge in all areas that might be of benefit to them. With the help of the elephants themselves Carol is expanding her understanding of the spiritual purpose of elephants and sharing this understanding with others. I am sure that Carol would agree that the elephants are here for a far greater purpose than our entertainment, they are a part of the great healing "Ministry of Animals."
Because of Carol's willingness to try anything that might help the elephants, Barbara and the sanctuaries other two elephant residents Tarra and Jenny have been treated with Anaflora flower essences. For more on Barbara's treatment with Anaflora flower essences see the case study Barbara Tries Flower Essences.
Since the writing of this article three other elephants Bunny, Shirley and Cissy, have taken up residence at the Elephant Sanctuary. It has been my great honor to provide these incredible beings with flower essences to soothe their spirits and ease their introduction to the Elephant Sanctuary.