Travels With Tarra by Carol Buckley

'Travels With Tarra by Carol Buckley

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Tarra, an Asian elephant raised in captivity, is the subject of this tender photo-essay by Tarra's elephant-advocate owner. College student Buckley's courses in the care of exotic animals sprang to life when a local merchant obtained an infant elephant as his store mascot. Before long, Buckley had befriended the store owner and taken over the feeding of the hairy 700-pound infant and eventually began lobbying to purchase the pachyderm outright. As a team, Tarra (who learned to play musical instruments and roller skate) and her new owner, Buckley, toured the U.S. and Canada performing with various circuses and theme parks. But after close to 15 years on the road took their toll, Buckley wanted Tarra to retire in the most natural setting possible. In 1995 Buckley and a partner established the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tenn., currently home to Tarra and other elephants raised in captivity. Though animal activists may balk at Tarra's on-tour living quarters and time in the spotlight, Buckley creates a compelling story of human-animal friendship (… la Born Free or Free Willy) in which humans act as a fierce and stalwart support. The black-and-white photos mostly playful behind-the-scenes shots further emphasize Tarra and Buckley's bond.

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