Sunday, September 6, 2009

Blog Book Tour - Travels with Tarra and Just for Elephants

Recently one of the publicists at Tilbury House sent me two non fiction titles about a lady who raised a baby elephant, and who subsequently went on to found a sanctuary for captive elephants. Both books, Travels with Tarra and Just for elephants, greatly moved me because of my background. Some years ago I wrote my thesis about captive elephants in India, and I also did a personal study on elephants in various zoos. It always distressed me greatly when I saw elephants having to endure squalid conditions, loneliness, and boredom.

It was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview the author of these books, Carol Buckley. Here is a brief bio about Carol:

Carol Buckley has more than thirty-two years' experience in the care and management of elephants. For many
years she traveled the U.S., Canada, and abroad performing in a number of circuses with Tarra. Their story is told in her award-winning first book, Travels With Tarra. In 1995, with Scott Blais, Carol founded the nation's first natural-habitat refuge for sick, old, and needy elephants, the Elephant Sanctuary. As executive director, she helps care for the elephants, arranges for needy elephants to be moved to the Sanctuary, and develops and implements educational programs, both for the public and for school children, to benefit the elephants wherever they might be.

Now on to the interview:

Marya: In Travels with Tarra, you describe how you and Tarra used to travel around the country performing in shows of various kinds. What made you decide to change this way of life?
Carol: As Tarra grew and matured she required a different life style. When she was young she seemed to enjoy life on the road; new sights, surroundings, always new adventures. But as she grew she became larger and her size alone made much of our shared adventures prohibitive. As a four foot tall, thousand pound cute baby, we could run on a deserted beach or swim in a river without concern. By the time Tarra was ten she was more than 6 feet tall and weighed several thousand pounds and no longer was viewed as cute, definitely not the size creature the local police or forest ranger felt comfortable allowing to play in the forest, swim in a river or romp along the shoreline. Tarra needed more space and freedom and especially she needed to live with a family of elephants

Marya: Tarra mostly grew up around humans, and she had a hard time getting used to being around other elephants. How did you help her feel comfortable with creatures of her own kind?
Carol: Tarra got along with elephants just fine if they were not aggressive., unfortunately many captive elephants have poor social skills due to their lack of experience in a natural herd environment. Whenever Tarra was around non aggressive elephants she did great, when she was around aggressive elephants she
was extremely uncomfortable.

Marya: Why did you decide to set up an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee?
Carol: I wanted Tarra to live in a healthy environment. My experiences with the zoo and circus industries clearly demonstrated a lack of appropriate space, herd dynamics and progressive management philosophy. I did not want Tarra to spend her life in a deprived environment and I was determined to create a healthy place for her to live.

Marya: How do you find the elephants who come to the sanctuary
Carol: There are less than 600 elephants living in zoos and circuses. We know about their lives and their treatment. It is difficult but we have to wait until the owner is ready to send the elephant to us or the federal government is wiling to step in and confiscate to end the elephant's suffering.

Marya: And how do you raise the funds to care for them?
Carol: caring people worldwide hear about our work through media exposure, word of mouth and our web site and support us by making monetary donations or providing needs from our wish list

Marya: In Just for Elephants, you describe the way in which an elephant called Jenny welcomes the newest
sanctuary resident, Shirley. Jenny has since died. How did Shirley react to losing Jenny, who was like a mother to her?
Carol: Shirley was devastated when Jenny died just as any mother might be. Shirley mourned the loss of her dear friend and for weeks. She lost her appetite and was not responsive to her caregivers for days. Fortunately one of the other elephants, Bunny who was close with Shirley and Jenny, comforted Shirley in her time of need and their bond grew deeper. Bunny's love and compassion helped Shirley recover from her loss.

Marya: Most of the elephants at the sanctuary are Asian elephants, but you also have a few African elephants. How do the two species get along?
Carol: Our African and Asian elephants are provided separate habitats so that they are not required to get along. They are two separate species with different language and behavior, providing the most natural setting possible means these two species are not mixed.

Marya: Why did you decide to write about Tarra and the sanctuary?
Carol: To help raise awareness about the plight of all elephants forced to live their life in a captive environment

Marya: Do you think the books have helped to raise awareness of the plight of elephants in captivity?
Carol: I hope they have

Marya: Many of the elephants who come to the sanctuary have had a hard life. Shirley is one of these. Have their experiences made any of these elephants permanently angry, or are they able to move on, to forgive, and to be happy?
Carol: Elephants appear to me to be the most forgiving and compassionate of any species on our planet maybe equal with Gorilla, whales, and dolphins, and perhaps other species that we have yet to acknowledge. But elephants are superior in their ability to not hold a grudge, not seek revenge, to love those who mistreat them and to show compassion even when their lives are so deprived. It is not surprising to me that in ancient Asian cultures the elephants is viewed as a god, a reincarnate of Buddha himself.

Marya: One of the wonderful things about your sanctuary is that the elephants can live in herd, which is what they would do in the wild. Has one of them taken on the role of the matriarch – which is what happens in wild herds? Carol: In the wild elephants are born into a herd and the elder is the matriarch. At the Sanctuary Shirley as served as that wise and compassionate individual since her arrival, yes she is the oldest as well. In the separate habitat occupied by the divas Lottie serves in the capacity, her calm, sure and wise ways make her a perfect leader.

Marya: How many people help you to take care of the elephants at the sanctuary
Carol: We have 24 full time staff members and 12 of them are elephants caregivers.

Marya: How can we elephant fans help you in your work?
Carol: Our goal is to raise awareness about elephants and the lives they are forced to live in captive situations. Even the best of zoos deprive elephants from their most basic needs of room to roam, compatible others, and access to year round live vegetation. The best way anyone can help is to educate themselves regarding true elephant needs and then starting in their own community to make sure any elephant that lives in their community is provided for adequately.

You can also support Carol's captive elephants by 'adopting' one of her girls or by giving the sanctuary a donation. Please visit the Elephant Sanctuary website for more information.

Tilbury House is offering some wonderful blog book tour prizes. Here is the information:

Blog Prizes
- Copy of Just for Elephants signed by Sanctuary co-founder Carol Buckley
- Copy of
Travels With Tarra signed by Carol and stamped by Tarra the Elephant
- Package of Tilbury House Animal Books—
The Goat Lady, Thanks to the Animals, and an advance copy of Bear-ly There
We'll draw 3 lucky winners from all of those who comment on tour posts from Sept. 1-9, and will announce the winners on Sept 10th
We are able to ship to the US/Canada

Twitter Prize
From now through Sept. 9, anyone who tweets about the tour using the hashtag #trunktour will be entered to win a copy of Travels With Tarra or Just for Elephants. US/Canada only, two winners will be announced on Sept. 10th.

Please visit the other blogs participating in this tour:

Tuesday, Sept. 1: Reading Rumpus
Wednesday, Sept. 2: Sacred Elephants
Thursday, Sept. 3: Read These Books and Use Them!
Friday, Sept. 4: Maw Books
Saturday, Sept. 5: Shelf Elf
Sunday, Sept. 6: Bees Knees
Monday, Sept. 7: Through The Looking Glass
Tuesday, Sept. 8: Bri Meets Books


Jaya of Sacred Elephants said...

You did a marvelous job on your interview for the virtual book tour! Nice to meet a fellow elephant-lover, too, Marya.

Sarah of Tilbury House said...

Thanks so much for your wonderful interview! We're so happy to have you as part of the tour.

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