During an elephant’s final days at a sanctuary in Tennessee, a “supportive” friend stayed with her to keep her company — an elephant she had befriended weeks earlier.
Jana and Nosey, two elephants at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, demonstrated a touching symbol of friendship in a video the refuge shared in early October. The two had met for the first time without fences, the sanctuary said.
Their blossoming friendship came to a tragic end Oct. 20, when Jana was “humanely euthanized” after experiencing a decline in her health, the refuge said in an Oct. 25 Facebook post. The 43-year-old elephant had ongoing mobility issues from a series of falls throughout her life.
In the time Jana spent with herd mate Nosey, the two would explore their habitat together, growing close as friends, according to the refuge’s website.
“On a recent beautiful fall day, they spent time alternating between independent exploration and moments of grazing together,” the sanctuary wrote in a tribute to Jana on its website. “After a day of foraging, Jana decided to journey back, returning to rest beside the barn. Nosey chose to follow along, joining her companion.”
The two wrapped up their memorable day with a heartwarming activity: “peacefully napping and dusting side by side,” the refuge said.
“Watching Jana’s relationship with Nosey grow from one of uncertainty to acceptance and even a budding friendship, where they sought out interactions with each other, was truly rewarding,” lead Asia Barn caregiver Sarah Fischel said in Jana’s tribute. “We are honored to have known, cared for, and loved Jana.”
Jana was a recent resident of the sanctuary, moving in on May 1, officials said. She spent her earlier years at the Louisville Zoo and Zoo Knoxville, where in 2010, her medical records showed she was injured in “her right forelimb during an altercation with another elephant,” the refuge said.
As a result, for more than 12 years, Jana “exhibited an abnormal gait,” in addition to “stiffness and discomfort,” according to the sanctuary. Radiographs taken earlier in 2023 also revealed Jana had “advanced degenerative joint disease with partial carpal joint collapse,” the refuge said.
Aware of Jana’s list of health issues, the sanctuary said it made several modifications to her barn and expansive habitat. They added sand piles as resting spots, as well as standing mats and “foot presentation bars” for her to use when receiving treatments, the sanctuary said.
Seeing Jana explore her new habitat, swim in water holes and befriend Nosey brought joy to Zoo Knoxville President and CEO Lisa New, who said in Jana’s tribute that the elephant “left this world surrounded by people who loved and cared for her.”
“Jana was intelligent, spirited, and confident and we feel very fortunate to have the privilege of knowing her during her years at Zoo Knoxville,” New said.
Jana’s health declined after she fell on Oct. 16 and couldn’t get back up, the sanctuary said. The refuge’s emergency response team gave her “immediate care.” An “elephant mattress” was also added for Jana to lie on, according to the refuge.
Over the next few days, she had “significant weakness and a lack of interest in essential life-sustaining activities.” When her health rapidly declined on Oct. 20, the sanctuary said they had to make the decision to put Jana down.
Nosey was with Jana until the very end — sanctuary staff said they observed Nosey “standing quietly by her side and offering gentle touches.” When Jana died, Nosey stayed close to her until her burial, the refuge said.
Elephants are known to grieve other elephants they bonded with in a “vigil,” as some have been spotted visiting the remains of family members who died, according to BBC Earth.