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WHO IS TARRA?
Tarra is a 47-year-old, wild-born Asian elephant. Born in what was known as Burma (now Myanmar), she has the distinctive characteristics of Burmese elephants, including protruding heavy-lidded eyes, dark complexion and a stocky build. Tarra arrived in the US when she was just a few months old and was raised in captivity with a family of dogs, cats and humans. She is the inspiration for the creation of the two largest natural habitat elephant sanctuaries in the United States.
How long have Carol and Tarra been together?
Carol and Tarra met in 1974 when Tarra (who was then called Fluffie) was not even a year old and Carol was a 20-year-old college student studying exotic animal training and management at Moorpark College, CA. They lived together for 36 years until being forcibly separated in 2010. They were reunited 11 years later on November 18, 2021.
Why does Tarra love dogs?
From the time Tarra was a baby in Carol’s care, she was surrounded by a variety of animals, especially dogs. Dogs are family to Tarra.
What does it mean for an elephant to “bond” with a person, another elephant or a member of another species?
With elephants, the term “bond” in its purest definition signifies two individuals who wish to remain physically together. Tarra is an example of how elephants can bond with other species, as demonstrated by her deep relationships with humans and dogs.
Was TARRA bonded to any elephants while living at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee?
Tarra lived with several elephants at TES. She became very comfortable with Jenny, Shirley, Bunny and Sissy but unfortunately did not bond with any of them. Instead, she bonded with her constant canine companion, Bella.
Why does Tarra make sounds like barking and squeaking?
Elephant families appear to have their own language. There are certain sounds all Asian elephants make, but many are specific to their family. “Tarra talk” is uniquely hers. Although it may sound like a dog barking, she spoke this language from the day she was imported from Asia.
Tarra and Carol on the set of Little House on the Prairie
Tarra and Carol performed in circuses, zoos, movies and television shows for 15 years. How did Carol train Tarra to perform?
Carol trained Tarra using positive reinforcement, a technique she learned from training dogs. With the use of food rewards, patience and praise, elephants can learn any behavior asked of them. While food was a positive motivator for Tarra, Carol quickly learned that Tarra craved the attention she received while being taught new things. Contrary to the misconception that all training involves negative reinforcement, Tarra excelled with a combination of praise, physical reassurance and treats.
Carol calls Tarra her teacher? Why?
As Tarra aged, maturing from an infant to young adult, she taught Carol not only about her own personal needs and desires, but she opened a window into the world of elephants. Carol learned more each day she and Tarra were together. Tarra continues to be Carol’s most important teacher to this day.
How did Tarra inspire Carol to create two natural habitat elephant sanctuaries?
With all she’s learned from Tarra, Carol realized that if elephants must be in captivity, sanctuary is the only way to meet their complex biological, mental, emotional and social needs.
Why did Carol bring Tarra to ERNA?
After determining that the degenerative bone disease Tarra developed over the past decade required a change of climate and substrate, Carol moved Tarra to South Georgia’s warmer climate and Elephant Refuge North America, which is designed to accommodate and prevent such disease.
Bo (left) and Tarra (right) at Elephant Refuge North America
What are Tarra’s stats?
Tarra is 8’ tall and weighs 9,700 pounds.