Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

June 29, 2014

Wild Adventures elephant turns 70

VALDOSTA — Many Valdosta residents may not be aware, but Wild Adventures Theme Park houses the second oldest living elephant on record.

Saturday, Shirley the elephant was given a celebration to mark her 70th birthday. Born in 1944, Shirley made her way to the United States in 1946. After traveling the country with various circus troupes she settled at Wild Adventures in the late 1990s. She is also an accomplished actress, having starred in the remake of “The Jungle Book” in 1994.

Guests were invited to share in Shirley's special day. The first 1,500 guests were given birthday hats to wear. A giant birthday card was also present so guests could give Shirley their best wishes.

At 2 p.m., Shirley, freshly washed and with painted toenails, was presented with a birthday cake and gift, all while wearing an elephant-sized party hat.

While guests stood at the giraffe/elephant overlook, Molly Deese, general manager for Wild Adventures, shared some heartfelt words about the beloved elephant.

“Shirley is such an important part of the Wild Adventures family,” says Deese. “We are thrilled to give everyone the opportunity to spend the day celebrating with her.”

Deese led the crowd in a group singing of “Happy birthday” while Shirley was presented with her cake, which is one of her favorite foods. After eating a few trunkfuls, she turned her attention to a large gift provided by Wild Adventures.

Upon ripping off her wrapping paper, she was elated to find that she received a new ball. While some may consider 70 to be elderly, this elephant seemed unconcerned with age as she hit the ball around with her handler of almost ten years, Debbie Allen, and other members of the Wild Adventures staff.

Shirley can be visited at Wild Adventures during their hours of operation. She can be seen from the Safarai Train ride or the overlook and is often seen lounging in her pond.

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