Custody of Tarra the elephant goes to sanctuary founder

Long legal battle nears the end
Posted at 2:07 PM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 19:42:25-04

HOHENWALD, Tenn. (WTVF) — Who should have custody of Tarra, a 7,000-pound elephant? After a long legal battle, she now belongs to the founder of the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee.

The question now is whether Tarra will stay there or leave Tennessee with her guardian.

This basically was a unique custody battle over an beloved Asian elephant. It now appears to be resolved, and the question is where will Tarra live out the rest of her days?

Tarra's lived for nearly the past three decades at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald. You may remember the story from more than a decade ago of Tarra and her loyal canine companion, Bella.

Tarra was the sanctuary's first elephant brought there by founder Carol Buckley. After several years, Buckley was ousted. She didn't surrender Tarra then but did leave the elephant at the sanctuary since it was best at the time.

Later, Buckley had to sue to regain custody and won two years ago.

"It was somewhat of a relief because it was such a long time for justice to be served," said Buckley in 2018.

But she still has not seen Tarra.

"I've chosen not to see her since I won in court. It would not be kind for me to go and see her and leave again," said Buckley.

Why the delay? Well, the sanctuary filed for and a judge granted a new trial. They believe it's best for Tarra to say there.

Buckley challenged, and now two years later, the Court of Appeals found: "Having reviewed all of the grounds asserted in support of the motion for a new trial, we conclude that the trial court abused it discretion in granting the motion."

So, now, barring an appeal to the state Supreme Court, custody of Terra goes to Buckley again.

The question now: What's the future for the sanctuary's most famous elephant?

Buckley now runs a new elephant refuge she's started in Georgia. For now, she non-committal about whether she'll bring Terra there and insists, as always, any decision will be based on what is best for the elephant.

Tarra is currently 47-years-old, and Buckley says with proper care, she's seen Asian elephants live into their 70s.