Tarra is a wild-caught Burmese elephant born in 1974. She was three months old when an exotic animal broker sold her to an animal collector in California, who put her on public display at his tire store.
Carol and Tarra met in 1974 when Tarra was not even a year old and Carol was a 20-year-old college student studying exotic animal training and management at Moorpark College in southern California. Carol immediately became Tarra's volunteer caregiver and, eventually, her legal guardian.
They lived together for 36 years until being forcibly separated in 2010. They were reunited 11 years later, on November 18, 2021.
Tarra was Carol's inspiration for the creation of the two largest natural habitat elephant sanctuaries in the United States.
Tarra and Carol performed in amusement parks and circuses for eight years, from 1976 to 1984, starting at Marriott's Great America Theme Park in Santa Clara, CA, and ending at the Big Apple Circus at Lincoln Center in New York City. They then appeared at zoos and in movies and television shows for another 12 years.
As Tarra aged, maturing from an infant to young adult, she taught Carol about her own personal needs and desires and opened a window into the world of elephants. Tarra continues to be Carol's most important teacher to this day.
When Tarra was 21 years old, Carol purchased land in Tennessee to retire her, creating the first natural habitat sanctuary for elephants in the U.S.
Other elephants soon joined Tarra. Over the next 15 years, under Carol's direction, the sanctuary welcomed 23 more elephants who were retired from zoos and circuses.
In 2010, Carol left TES. Driven to improve the lives of elephants in captivity, Carol founded Elephant Aid International and building on all she'd learned from Tarra, her past sanctuary experience and caring for working elephants in Asia, created her second elephant refuge in Georgia in 2016.
In November 2021, Tarra arrived at the Refuge. Tarra's medical records document that over the past decade when she was separated from Carol, her normally precocious and friendly personality changed drastically. Records show that she became aggressive toward her keepers, was put on medication for anxiety and developed a degenerative bone disease that, if left untreated, would eventually be fatal.
Tarra needed a different environment that could meet her individual physical and emotional needs. In particular, to prevent her bouts of aggression, Tarra needed to be cared for in a way that made her feel safe and understood.
Elephant Refuge North America was founded on the recognition that each elephant is as individual in his/her personality and needs as humans. Tarra moved to the Refuge for its warm South Georgia climate and facilities designed specifically to meet the needs of aging elephants. Once again she is able to develop close physical bonds, not only with other elephants but with the other species she loves, humans and dogs.
At the Refuge with its mild South Georgia climate, Tarra can be outdoors and physically active on natural substrate every day, which benefits her aging bones and muscles and slows the progression of her osteomyelitis.
Does Tarra hold a special place in your heart? Why not become her sponsor? You can choose an annual sponsorship of $75 or sponsor Tarra every month of the year with a recurring donation of your choice (just click monthly and select the amount).
You'll receive a sponsorship certificate and photo of Tarra delivered via eco-friendly email. With your support, we can continue to give Tarra her best life ever.
Are you a member of the press? Please visit our media page.
Tarra is 8' tall and weighs 9,700 pounds.
- Species: Asian elephant
- Gender: Female
- Birth: 1974
- Birth Place: Burma (Myanmar)
- ERNA Arrival Date: November 18, 2021
- Interesting Fact: Tarra loves 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.
- Personality Characteristics: Talkative and inquisitive
- Friends: Bo, Mala, and Samie
Tarra was born in 1974 in Burma (Myanmar)
1974 Tarra brought to the U.S. at 3-months old & sold to an animal collector in California
1974 Carol becomes Tarra's volunteer caregiver
1976-1984 Tarra and Carol performed in amusement parks and circuses
1984-1995 Tarra and Carol appeared at zoos and in movies and television shows
1995 Tarra retires to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, co-founded by Carol
1995-2010 Tarra remains under the care of Carol at The Elephant Sanctuary
2010-2021 Tarra remains in Tennessee separated from Carol
November 18, 2021
Reunited with Carol and arrived at ERNA November 18, 2021
The Havana Herald: The Star Arrives at Elephant Refuge North America
WCTV: After 12-year legal battle, Tarra the elephant making new home in South Georgia
USA Today: 'She's home': Tarra the elephant reunited with longtime owner after 11-year custody battle
WTXL: Elephant Aid International welcomes another elephant to refuge
People Magazine: Woman Who Cared for Captive Elephant for 36 Years Reunites with the Animal After 10 Years Apart
Nashville Scene: Tarra the Elephant Relocates to Georgia After Long Custody Battle