Shirlei’s Perspective on Sanctuary Life

We often talk about how caring for elephants involves learning the nuances of each individual and adjusting your care approach accordingly. Recently, one of our newer employees, Angelica, was speaking to Shirlei about how impressed she was by how much physical work Shirlei is able to accomplish. Shirlei is petite, but can hold her own when it comes to getting tough work done. Her answer caught Angelica a bit off guard. 

Shirlei expressed that the hardest part of the job is not the actual labor. Learning to understand the nuances and complexities of working with elephants is immensely more difficult. Being trained on how to exist in the moment and discover things that might be overlooked or underestimated about an elephant takes true concentration. Shirlei has witnessed that there are intangible things that encourage each individual elephant to work with someone and trust them enough to do what is asked. 

Working out in the habitat means being in the hot sun for hours, cleaning, shoveling trailers of elephant poop, and checking on elephants in the habitat throughout the day. It’s hard work, but not terribly complicated. So, it was fulfilling to hear Shirlei express her understanding that the most difficult work here is putting your own perceptions aside, quieting your mind, being present, and learning who each individual really is and how you can best function in their world.

Bambi and Mara enjoying the habitat


  1. REPLY
    John says

    I enjoyed this post very much. Hearing from other staff members and what they get from being around the elephants is great. Many times I’ve imagined what it would be like to work there.

  2. REPLY
    Nancy Shaw says

    WOW… I had just listened to a program with George Harrison singing and speaking this very same thing.
    BE PRESENT …..
    Just what I needed today.

  3. REPLY
    Nancy HartGold says

    The sentence “putting your own perceptions aside…” is a useful philosophy for people in our lives or those we encounter throughout our day.

  4. REPLY
    Barb says

    Very thoughtful and enlightening post!

  5. REPLY
    Wim says

    Very honestly spoken.
    Being a carer often means seeing without looking and hearing without listening.
    What comes from the heart is priceless. 🤗🐘❤️

  6. REPLY
    Carey says

    I imagine that part IS difficult, good to hear staff experiences.

  7. REPLY
    Terry Feleppa says

    Being is different than observing. Being to me is in that moment you are totally the elephant, the land, the trees, the water that you are observing. I’m struggling to put ” Being in the moment” into words as I type! It’s a sense beyond time and space. I understand Shirlei’s perspective.

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