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She survived Castro, a crash and a burning ship. Now Shirley the elephant is turning 70

Elephant that survived Castro turns 70

Shirley, an Asian elephant that survived an attempted capture by Cuban revolutionaries in the late 1950s, a highway wreck and a burning ship is getting a 70th birthday bash at her Tennessee wildlife sanctuary on July 6, 2018.
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Shirley, an Asian elephant that survived an attempted capture by Cuban revolutionaries in the late 1950s, a highway wreck and a burning ship is getting a 70th birthday bash at her Tennessee wildlife sanctuary on July 6, 2018.

An elephant that survived capture by Cuban revolutionaries in the late 1950s, a highway wreck and a burning ship is getting a 70th birthday bash at her Tennessee wildlife sanctuary on Friday.

Shirley also lived through 20 years with a traveling circus, according to her caretakers at the The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

Despite it all, Shirley has outlived the average Asian elephant by 28 year, and she's now the third-oldest elephant in North America, according to the sanctuary.

Born in Sumatra in 1948, Shirley was captured and sold to a traveling circus. She entertained audiences for more than 20 years, according to a sanctuary news release about her birthday celebration.

"In addition to the immense physical and emotional impact that a life of performance has on captive elephants, during her time in the circus, Shirley survived capture by Fidel Castro’s forces as well as a highway accident that killed two other elephants," the sanctuary said in the release.

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Shirley has outlived the average Asian elephant by 28 years, and she's now the third-oldest elephant in North America, according to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee

In 1963, Shirley was burned on her back, side and feet when her circus ship caught fire and partially sank, according to the sanctuary. She lost part of her right ear because of the burns.

And in 1974, Shirley broke a leg during a fight with another elephant, the sanctuary said. She later spent 22 years as the only elephant at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo in Monroe. Staff there eventually decided she needed more space and the company of other elephants as she aged. That's when she was moved to the Tennessee sanctuary. The sanctuary has 10 other elephants.

To celebrate Shirley's milestone, her caregivers made an "elephant-sized" No. 70 out of edible bamboo, strung with edible fresh flowers and produce.

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Shirley the elephant hangs out near a pond at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. The Elephant Sanctuary

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067; @jmarusak
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