Bo the Elephant celebrates his 36th birthday

What’s the best way to celebrate your birthday if you’re a male elephant?

 If you’re Bo, you’ll spend your 36th birthday roaming Elephant Refuge North America’s 850 acres with your friends: Tarra, a female elephant, and Mala and Samie, two mixed breed dogs who adopted the Refuge and the elephants as their own.

This is the second birthday Bo has celebrated since retiring to the Refuge.

Bo has spent his life in captivity. He was born at Busch Gardens’ breeding center in Florida, on January 22, 1987.

He started performing on television and in movies when he was about one year old.

By the time Bo was five, he was becoming unmanageable, which is typical for maturing young bulls.

Bo was sold at the age of five to George Carden, the owner of Carden International Circus.

There Bo lived with a group of middle-aged female elephants who mothered him and taught him valuable social skills.

Shortly after, Bo underwent surgical castration, an extremely invasive procedure for male elephants that requires weeks of follow-up care.

Carden tended to Bo’s healing incisions every day, forging a strong bond between the two. The castration left Bo with a mild, gentle, and patient temperament.

Bo performed in the family circus for 29 years, becoming a sought-after headliner.

When COVID hit, Bo and the other elephants remained at home for over a year. When the circus resumed touring, George decided to retire Bo.

 It was a bold decision on Carden’s part, unheard of in either the zoo or circus world because at the age of 34, Bo could have continued performing for decades.

But Carden wanted a different life for Bo – a healthy young elephant who could live into 70s.

Carden looked at many different facilities and it was obvious: Elephant Refuge North America would give Bo the best life, a life of true freedom under the warm Georgia sun.

Bo arrived at the Refuge on September 23rd, 2021, becoming the first elephant resident.

Two months later, Bo was joined by Tarra, a 47-year-old female elephant.

The two have grown quite close. Bo even allows Tarra to “steal” his hay, but then gently but firmly retrieves it after she creates a huge pile.

This goes on for hours.

These days Bo is quite vocal, talking to his caregivers, Tarra, and his dogs.

His favorite pastime is grazing in the refuge’s pastures followed closely by playing in the lake or ponds. Bo always has access to a warm barn when the weather gets cold, but the longer he’s at the refuge, the less he chooses to come in at night, if at all.

Bo is healthy, content, and living his best life.

To learn more about Bo and Elephant Refuge North America, visit

Special to The Herald –


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