Beloved Former Circus Elephant Leaving San Antonio Zoo For Tennessee Sanctuary

Nicole, a 47-year-old Asian elephant, was part of the zoo’s trio of geriatric Asian elephants known as the “Golden Girls.”

A former circus elephant is leaving her home at San Antonio Zoo to spend the remainder of her years in peace and comfort at a Tennessee sanctuary.

Nicole, a 47-year-old Asian elephant, was part of the zoo’s trio of geriatric Asian elephants known as the “Golden Girls.” After the deaths of her two companions, Karen and Lucky, in 2022, San Antonio Zoo made the decision to transfer Nicole to The Elephant Sanctuary to provide her “with continued social and herd opportunities.” 

Nicole Elephant

San Antonio Zoo

After decades spent with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey traveling circus, Nicole came to San Antonio Zoo in 2016—shortly after public outcry led to the end of the attractions.

"We are going to miss Nicole dearly," Tim Morrow, President & CEO of San Antonio Zoo, said in a news release. "We are grateful for the years she spent with us as one of the Golden Girls. She and Karen bonded beyond expectations with Lucky and inspired visitors to care for and want to protect elephants from extinction."

With the help of her animal care team, Nicole has spent the last month acclimating to the climate-controlled transportation crate that will take her to The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald. The senior pachyderm will be accompanied by a veterinarian and support staff on the 800-mile journey.

"Nicole is actually used to traveling," Rachel Malstaff, Director of Mammals at San Antonio Zoo, said in a statement. "Before joining the Golden Girls in Bahiti Waters, Nicole was part of a traveling circus. She was naturally curious and quickly comfortable when we introduced her to the transportation crate. I have no doubts that the trip will go smoothly and this sweet elephant will feel right at home when she arrives."

Nicole, who will soon turn 48 years old, will join nine other elephants ranging in age from 37 to 60.

Located on 3,060 acres, The Elephant Sanctuary is the nation’s largest natural-habitat refuge developed specifically to provide for elephants as they age with the companionship of a herd and individualized care. Founded in 1995, the world-renowned sanctuary also works to raise public awareness of the complex needs of elephants and the crises facing them in the wild. 

Safe travels, Nicole!

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