Elephant Sanctuary requests new trial in elephant custody case

Legal battle over Tarra the elephant continues
Posted at 12:32 PM, Jun 06, 2019

HOHENWALD, Tenn. (WTVF) — Imagine a 7,000-pound elephant in limbo. Despite a recent jury verdict, a legal battle still rages over Tarra, the most famous resident at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee.

Tarra is a beloved Asian elephant. At 45-years-of-age, she's getting up in the years and the very simple question to a complex legal case is: Where will Tarra live out the rest of her days?

She's lived for the past 24 years at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald.

You may remember the story from a decade ago of Tarra and her loyal canine companion, Bella. It became a national story.

Tarra was the first elephant at the sanctuary, who was brought there by founder, Carol Buckley. After several years, Buckley was ousted.

She claims she didn't surrender Tarra, but left her at the sanctuary knowing that was best at the time.

Now Buckley wants Tara back. She sued the sanctuary for custody and in April, she won in court.

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

But she still is not back with Tarra.

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

What's the hold up?

Now the Elephant Sanctuary is asking for a new trial – arguing, among other things, that evidence did not support the jury verdict. They believe what's best for Tarra is to stay at the sanctuary.

Buckley has never said she'd move her.

"I haven't decided on anything yet, but to evaluate all of the options. My choice will be the place that is best for her."

One possible option is moving Tarra to a new sanctuary Buckley now runs in the warmer climate of South Georgia.

But for now, any potential move is on hold. For now, despite that jury verdict, Tarra remains in the care of the Elephant Sanctuary.

She's caught in the middle of a custody battle between two parties who say they only want what's best for her.

A judge will rule on the Elephant Sanctuary's request for a new trial in July.