NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Just over one week ago, Tarra the beloved Asian elephant at the Hohenwald sanctuary in Middle Tennessee, made the move south to Georgia.
After a lengthy legal battle, Tarra is reunited with her owner Carol Buckley.
A judge awarded custody to Buckley earlier this month and she quickly moved her beloved elephant to south Georgia.
Tarra's already settling in — bonding with the only other elephant at Buckley's Elephant Refuge North America.
She mingles with Bo, also an Asian elephant.
Buckley said Tarra is adapting to her new surroundings and the two were thrilled to see each other for the first time in eleven years.
"It was really wonderful... It was a relief," said Buckley.
Buckley described the moment they came face to face after the trip to the new sanctuary.
"When I opened the doors she took two steps out onto the ramp and she stopped and she looked around. I said, 'Hey hon... It's me.' And she looked right at me and she took two more steps on the ramp and she exhaled... a giant exhale and she said yes it's me... and she started chattering, the Tarra talks she does," Buckley said.
Tarra was the first and best-known elephant at the Hohenwald sanctuary.
Many will remember the story from a decade ago of Tarra and her loyal canine companion Bella, who has since died.
Well, at the new sanctuary Tarra's already bonded with a new dog — Mala.
"They play... they play and Tarra does her Tarra talk," Buckley said while laughing.
Some who objected to Tarra's move south worried it would be hard on the elephant leaving a place she's lived for nearly three decades. Buckley says that's a non-issue.
"No, this is a highly-evolved, intelligent migratory animal that doesn't say in one place naturally," she said.
Buckley said the habitat at the new sanctuary is very similar to that of Hohenwald. But, the climate is much warmer, better suited for Tarra — who is now a 47-year-old Asian elephant.
With proper care Tarra can live into her 70s.
Over the years Buckley said Tarra developed a degenerative bone disease in one foot.
She said the warmer climate will allow Tarra to be outside more year-round and not inside on the hard concrete floors of winter shelters, which can make the condition worse.