Jury trial to determine Tarra the elephant’s fate

Carol and Tarra 001

Tarra and Carol Buckley traveled for nearly 20 years prior to the establishment of The Elephant Sanctuary, which was designed for Tarra. Tarra was 21 years old when she retired from life as a performing elephant, one of the youngest elephants to ever be retired.

Officials with The Elephant Sanctuary with their lawyers and Carol Buckley with her lawyers appeared in Lewis County Court this week before the Honorable Judge Deanna Johnson to argue for ownership of Tarra the Elephant.

Tarra, raised by Buckley who purchased her while a college student in California in 1976, came to Hohenwald in 1995 as the founding elephant at The Elephant Sanctuary.

Following Buckley’s ouster as CEO and President of the organization she co-founded in 2009, she began the process of obtaining visitation and removal of Tarra.

The case was first heard by the Honorable Judge James G. Martin III in December 2016 in a four hour long hearing.  In April of 2017, Judge Martin issued a memorandum and order denying exclusive ownership to either party.  

Bella the dog, Carol Buckley and Tarra. Photo courtesy Carol Buckley.

Testimony was heard this week from multiple parties including co-founder Scott Blais, in town from his new venture, Global Sanctuary for Elephants located in Brazil. 

“We should be here honoring our accomplishments, not doing this,” Blais said Tuesday.

Buckley was in the witness chair several hours on Monday answering questions.  The trial was expected to continue through Wednesday.

Executive Director Janice Zeitlin was also in the courtroom for the proceedings.

Scott Blais and Carol Buckley with Tarra, Bella and others at The Elephant Sanctuary, 1990s.

Scott Blais and Carol Buckley with Tarra, Bella and others at The Elephant Sanctuary, 1990s.

If Buckley is granted ownership of Tarra, she is expected to remove the elephant from its home of the past 23 years to a new facility Buckley is creating in Georgia, Elephant Refuge of North America.

Buckley founded Elephant Aid International soon after leaving The Elephant Sanctuary and has traveled around the world advising, training others and caring for elephants.

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