Sanctuary Memories: Meeting Lady

As part of our ongoing series on sanctuary memories, Scott shares some of what he recalls about his first meeting with Lady. Before Lady was transported to sanctuary in 2019, she was living in a zoo; she’d previously been confiscated from a circus, where she’d lived for decades, and a court was attempting to find the right home for Lady – a place where she would receive the best care possible. 

Our first visit to the zoo where Lady lived was an observation trip, so the main focus was on her physical condition, her environment, and her care. That doesn’t mean that we weren’t able to learn things about her personality right away, though. Scott remembers, “You could see there was a lot of life in her; that was a big takeaway. Her feet were, of course, in terrible condition, but she had a lot of spunk and spark inside her.”

Lady’s enclosure was mere feet from an area that was easily accessible to outsiders, and we don’t know what happened security-wise after hours, but the potential breaches of her home space caused her to be protective from the beginning. She tended to hide out in the small barn in her yard – and she clearly wasn’t using the yard much. Looking back, this likely had much to do with the fact that she may not have felt physically or emotionally safe in her environment. 

On that first visit, we witnessed Lady starting to climb out of her electric fence, because it wasn’t working and she knew it. That was the first sign of independence and self-determination that we saw from her – and it certainly wasn’t the last. She was very curious about the new people who were visiting and, though she was clearly guarded emotionally, she was alert and wanted to know what was going on. 

As we were trying to determine the logistics of a transport for Lady and, honestly, asking the basic question of whether or not she could travel because of the state of her feet, she began to show us the fight she had in her. “We could see what she had the desire to do,” remembers Scott, “and, though her feet were grossly inflamed, she had a lot of fight in her. That gave us the confidence to say that Lady could be moved.” Because that first visit was primarily an investigative one, it was tough to walk away from Lady, says Scott. “We left with a giant unknown of whether she was going to get the level of care she needed, because she was not in good shape. There’s a feeling of helplessness, knowing that you could potentially make an impact on her life in a situation where others don’t have the capacity. Leaving there was actually harder than seeing her in that place, because her spark was evident from the beginning.”

By the time our team returned to relocate Lady, she was truly engaged. She was curious about the transport container and went inside within the first couple of hours after it arrived. She was still quite protective and guarded, but she was showing us her toughness and letting us know she could make it to sanctuary. “We watched her go up and down hills to get to the crates, when there were easier paths to take. She still had her signature vibe that said: I’m in charge; this is my world. Lady had clear boundaries that were easy to cross. She was very much herself from the beginning. Everything she is now – demanding of excellence, aware of her personal space, wanting to be in charge of the world – that was present from the beginning and it was an intriguing beginning to a rewarding relationship.” Charming, but demanding from our first meeting – Lady is a survivor with an undeniable spark. 

Photo of Lady before her move to ESB


  1. REPLY
    Melinda says

    I just love that Lady!

  2. REPLY
    Pam says

    Thanks so much for giving us these insights into Lady’s personality. She is probably the most enigmatic of the Sanctuary elephants with her solitary ways — we tend to want to see her to bond with the other girls simply from our desire for her to experience that connection and support. I so appreciate that the ESB guidelines allow each one to find their own way, to build their own world, to gauge their own boundaries and comfort levels. What we humans assume is ideal might not always be best for the individual elephant. Thank you for another well-written and informative post!

  3. REPLY
    Marion Weber says

    Sara, I love your posts on the status of current resident elephants. I would like to hear a bit about the plans for remaining Mendoza elephants and their eventual move to Sanctuary. Do you try to stay in touch with how they are doing?

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Thank you for being so kind. It means so much. We are in contact with the Mendoza Ecoparque about the progress of the two elephants remaining there. Tamy still needs significant training, but Kenya is much closer to being ready to transport. The current plan is still to move Kuky and Pupy from Buenos Aires first – but whomever has their permits ready before the others will likely be moved first.

  4. REPLY
    Sunny says

    😍 Mi Lady 👑

  5. REPLY
    Patricia says

    Thank you for this! I love Lady and she is on my mind so much! I always hope she will feel like interacting more, but so grateful she is at ESB. Also would be good to have a foot report sometime. 💗💗💗

  6. REPLY
    Kenneth B. Newman says

    I hope that LADY is able to make some friends, even if it takes many MORE months or years………

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      The most important thing to hope for is Lady’s happiness, and she seems content.

  7. REPLY
    Beji says

    She is truly a lady ad Scott is a gentleman. A perfect combination.

  8. REPLY
    Wim says

    Thank you for sharing stories from the heart.
    Lady will always be phenomenal.

  9. REPLY
    Eileen L. says

    Lady is the one who has grabbed my heart. I am so happy to learn more about this tough girl!

  10. REPLY
    Tammy says

    Thank you for sharing these stories even though we could never imagine living through it as the girls were forced to or having to leave them behind after seeing those terrible conditions they were forced to survive in I honestly believe an elephant never forgets and the promises i know you Scott make to them they really do understand that you will never abandon them you will always come back and that gives them hope and a reason to carry on just like Ramba did she pushed through she made it to Heaven on Earth her time was short but she was able to decide on her terms when she was ready to say good bye and that makes it all worth it…..🙏🐘 💞

  11. REPLY
    RV says

    What about the elephant who shared space with Bambi ?! Is coming to sanctuary too ?

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      We are no longer in contact with the zoo where Maison lives, but still hope that one day she will make it to sanctuary.

  12. REPLY
    Terry says

    Our Lady of Grace and Determination!❤️

  13. REPLY
    Susan says

    Enjoyed reading Scott’s thoughts on meeting Lady for the first time.
    All of the girls are adorable but there’s just something about Lady that makes her stand out, maybe it’s her independence. 💚

  14. REPLY
    Gayle says

    Lady is such a wonderful example of how it IS possible to move elephants from zoos to sanctuary even if their physical condition isn’t the best. Zoos love to use that as an excuse to deny them a better life in a sanctuary. We love your take charge attitude and adorable self, Lady! ❤️

  15. REPLY
    Sandi says

    Loved this story and I’m so glad Lady is in a good place, both physically and mentally. She’s right where she belongs.

  16. REPLY
    Susy says

    Hermosa descripción de Lady..un bello ser, sabía lo que quería en su vida. Te amo bella y valiente Lady.

  17. REPLY
    Tammy says

    The transformation of Lady from that photo which was hard to see to where she is now unbelievably amazing how healthy and happy she is even though shes not quite there yet shes working hard to overcome those barriers from the past which cant be easy humans struggle all the time daily from their past troubles so it’s a fight but one that can be won! Thank you Scott and Kat for giving Lady and the others girls that second chance at a real life every elephant deserves the right to be free! 💞

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