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Monroe, Louisiana’s Shirley the Elephant Has Died



MONROE, La. – It’s a sad day in Monroe, Louisiana today.  A longtime, local celebrity has mad her way to that great game reserve in the sky.  22-year resident of the Louisiana Purchase Zoo and Gardens, Shirley the Asian Elephant has passed away.

Shirley was not only one of the most popular animals at the park, she was the only elephant on the property.  Thousands of families were able to see her in all of pachyderm glory during her stay at the zoo before she was whisked away for “retirement” in 1999.  According to KNOE, Shirley passed away at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee yesterday (2/23/2021) at the ripe old age of 72.

By the way, 72 is pretty old for an elephant.  Not only did Shirley live a long life, she was basically the elephant version of Forrest Gump.  Her story begins in Sumatra all the way back in 1948 when she was captured and sold to a travelling circus – a job she held for 20 years!

Her service with the circus wasn’t easy, either.  She barely survived capture by Fidel Castro’s forces in Cuba, and narrowly escaped an accident that killed 2 other elephants.  Then, in 1963, the boat she was being transported on caught fire and sank!  Miraculously, she survived but suffered burns on her back, side, and feet.

As if that wasn’t enough, she broke her leg during a scuffle with another elephant.  That’s when she finally caught a good break, as that injury meant the end of her circus career.  In 1977, she would be transferred to the Louisiana Purchase Zoo and Gardens where she would live a much easier life for the next 2 decades.

Once officials at the zoo realized she needed more room and deserved an official retirement, they made arrangements to transfer Shirley to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.  Not only was she free to roam and liver her life to the fullest, she was reunited with another Asian Elephant she had performed with in the circus so many years ago!

Diamondback Rattlesnake

The Western Diamondback is one of the most infamous snakes in the southern United States. Prevalent in Louisiana, these deadly snakes are a member of the Pit Viper family. This heavy bodied, triangular headed killer has special “sensors” on either side of the head that detect heat. That’s right, this nightmare has thermal vision. Watch out for them everywhere, but especially just underneath fallen trees and in rocky outcroppings. Also, listen for the telltale “rattle” warning this snake issues when it senses you near. BTW, the Western diamondback isn’t the only rattlesnake found in the Sportsman’s Paradise – we also play host to the Canebrake Rattlesnake and the Pygmy Rattlesnake. They are all dangerous

Water Moccasin

Water Moccasins are the scourge of the water in Louisiana. Sometimes difficult to see, these expert swimmers usually travel on top of the water – but can totally submerge making them killer reptile submarines! Sometimes referred to as a “cottonmouth,” this fat snake is also a member of the Pit Viper family. These dangerous serpents can definitely be fatal, and are usually (but not always) found in and around water – so watch out at lakeside swimming areas and near boat docks.

Photo courtesy of Lee Bene


This particular photo was provided by Lee Bene – who just happened to catch this usually very hard to see species. Another Pit Viper, the North American Copperhead isn’t as potent in the venom department as the first 2 entries on this list – but it’s nothing to sneeze at either! They may be less deadly, but they are more likely to bite you. Why? When this master of disguise is sitting on a pile of leaves or a tree – they are almost impossible to see. Most bites occur because because folks accidentally step on them.