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Last Chain On Billie

How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top

Carol Bradley

St. Martin's Press

Against the backdrop of a glittering but brutal circus world, Carol Bradley's Last Chain on Billie charts the history of elephants in America, the inspiring story of the Elephant Sanctuary and the spellbinding tale of a resilient elephant who defied the system even as she struggled to conquer her past, who never lost sight of the life she was meant to have.

Left in the wild, Billie the elephant would have spent her days surrounded by family, free to wander the jungles of Asia. Instead, traders captured her as a baby and shipped her to America, where she learned to carry humans, stand on a tub and balance on one leg – the full repertoire of elephant tricks. For decades, Billie crisscrossed the country, dazzling audiences as she performed breathtaking stunts. But behind the scenes she lived a life of misery: traveling in trucks, chained for hours on end, barely able to move, giving eight-minute performances under harsh lights and to the sounds of blaring music. And worse.

Finally, she got a lucky break. As part of the largest elephant rescue in American history, Billie wound up at a sanctuary for performing elephants in Tennessee, able once more to roam through open meadows and share her days with a herd. She would never be beaten again. But, overcome with anxiety, she withdrew from the rest of the elephants and refused to let anyone remove a chain still clamped around her leg. Her caregivers began to wonder if Billie could ever escape her emotional wounds. The compelling story of Billie’s battle to reclaim her old self is a testament to the intelligence, emotional complexity and remarkable strength of all elephants, captive or free.

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ONE

LOSING A FAMILY

 

Before the ruckus of the circus, before she’d taken the first whiff of sawdust or popcorn or cotton candy or heard the rabble’s roar, she was a baby elephant in the lush, jungly wilds of India. On the day she was born she would have landed with a thud, encased in a birth sac her mother would have torn open with her trunk. She would have stood just three feet long and three feet tall and weighed less than 200 pounds—not much bigger than a Great Dane. To introduce her to her new world, her mother would have nudged her along the ground

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REVIEWS

Praise for Last Chain On Billie

"Last Chain on Billie is powerful and haunting. I urge everyone to read and share this important – and beautifully written – book." — Jane Goodall

"Last Chain on Billie deserves a standing ovation! It is a heart-rending and, unfortunately, deadly accurate description of elephant suffering in circuses and zoos. Please read Last Chain on Billie. It will help you understand why the animal rights movement is sweeping the country.—Bob Barker, legendary game-show host and ardent animal-welfare activist

"Last Chain on Billie brings the reader on an insightful, behind-the-scenes journey to witness Elephant experience in circuses and zoos. Not only do we learn about the realities of captive life, but also about the culture in which we live that has brought such anguish to the gentle Elephant. Billie's story compels us to reconcile how it is that our species, humans, do things to Elephants, that despite, their might and comparability in mind, they never do to us. This book represents a critical step on the path toward reconciliation with animal kin and human salvation."—G.A. Bradshaw Ph.D Ph,D, Founder and Director, The Kerulos Center, and author of Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us About Humanity

"Heartbreaking though it is, Last Chain on Billie will lift your spirits. You can't help but root for this feisty, determined elephant who refuses to yield to her human tormentors, and ultimately discovers that people can be kind, too."—Virginia Morell, author of Animal Wise

"Readers will want to stand up and cheer for Billie as she struggles to remain true to herself in the face of great odds, and they'll applaud the Elephant Sanctuary for offering this vulnerable but resilient elephant a chance at a new life. This ground-breaking book about the enduring strength of one of our most majestic creatures will capture hearts everywhere."—Elizabeth Letts, New York Times bestselling author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion

"After reading this heartfelt, poignant and deeply moving book, you will never look at an elephant the same way again. The narrative is at once brutal, uplifting and gripping. It is almost impossible to grasp the unspeakable cruelty these magnificent, intelligent beings have endured for so many years, all in the name of "family entertainment." But as Carol Bradley writes with exquisite detail and painstaking research, there is hope yet for these captive animals, and for the human race that has made them suffer so needlessly."—David Kirby, New York Times bestselling author of Animal Factory and Death at SeaWorld

"Last Chain on Billie is a wonderful book. It is well-written, well-researched, and well thought out.  You cannot read it without realizing how extraordinary elephants are and how extraordinarily bad humans, until only very recently, have treated them. To understand what has happened to change our attitude, I can think of no better book than this. It is a labor of love, and I know many people will respond in kind. Anyone who loves elephants will love this book."— Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Ph.D., author of Dogs Never Lie About Love and Beasts: What Animals Can Teach Us About the Origins of Good and Evil
 
"Last Chain on Billie is a fact-filled page-turning biography of a magnificent circus elephant's long, painful, and unpredictable journey from reprehensible confinement to freedom. It is at once riveting, haunting, and inspirational. Billie's story kept me up at night - tearful and joyful - as she entered and then wouldn't leave my heart. I also was deeply moved by the selfless work of the wonderful people who ultimately were able to free her once and for all so she could live out her life in safety and peace and with the dignity she so deserves. This outstanding and groundbreaking book will make a difference for other circus elephants and other 'entertainment animals' who find themselves living horrific and hopeless lives filled with fear, stress, and uncertainty. It gave me hope."— Marc Bekoff, author of Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed, The Emotional Lives of Animals, and Rewilding Our Hearts

"Today, Billie must celebrate every day, for she enjoys a more normal life, thanks to caring humans who spoke up for her and her like.  Although the dream of returning to her homeland and her family can never be fulfilled, at least she has other elephant friends and caring humans who treat her kindly.  Her story will go a long way towards helping others and saving them from a cruel life of bondage and servitude.  Her story will educate people around the world about the nature of her iconic species, sparing many other young elephants miserable captivity."—Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick DBE, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Nairobi, Kenya, and author of Love, Life, and Elephants
 
"...both heartrending and uplifting...a well-researched winner."—Booklist (starred review)
 
"Vivid...A moving and informative account of the plight of trained elephants in the U.S."—Kirkus Reviews
 
 
 
"Last Chain on Billie is powerful and haunting. I urge everyone to read and share this important – and beautifully written – book." — Jane Goodall

"Last Chain on Billie deserves a standing ovation! It is a heart-rending and, unfortunately, deadly accurate description of elephant suffering in circuses and zoos. Please read Last Chain on Billie. It will help you understand why the animal rights movement is sweeping the country.—Bob Barker, legendary game-show host and ardent animal-welfare activist

"Last Chain on Billie brings the reader on an insightful, behind-the-scenes journey to witness Elephant experience in circuses and zoos. Not only do we learn about the realities of captive life, but also about the culture in which we live that has brought such anguish to the gentle Elephant. Billie's story compels us to reconcile how it is that our species, humans, do things to Elephants, that despite, their might and comparability in mind, they never do to us. This book represents a critical step on the path toward reconciliation with animal kin and human salvation."—G.A. Bradshaw Ph.D Ph,D, Founder and Director, The Kerulos Center, and author of Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us About Humanity

"Heartbreaking though it is, Last Chain on Billie will lift your spirits. You can't help but root for this feisty, determined elephant who refuses to yield to her human tormentors, and ultimately discovers that people can be kind, too."—Virginia Morell, author of Animal Wise

"Readers will want to stand up and cheer for Billie as she struggles to remain true to herself in the face of great odds, and they'll applaud the Elephant Sanctuary for offering this vulnerable but resilient elephant a chance at a new life. This ground-breaking book about the enduring strength of one of our most majestic creatures will capture hearts everywhere."—Elizabeth Letts, New York Times bestselling author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion

"After reading this heartfelt, poignant and deeply moving book, you will never look at an elephant the same way again. The narrative is at once brutal, uplifting and gripping. It is almost impossible to grasp the unspeakable cruelty these magnificent, intelligent beings have endured for so many years, all in the name of "family entertainment." But as Carol Bradley writes with exquisite detail and painstaking research, there is hope yet for these captive animals, and for the human race that has made them suffer so needlessly."—David Kirby, New York Times bestselling author of Animal Factory and Death at SeaWorld

"Last Chain on Billie is a wonderful book. It is well-written, well-researched, and well thought out.  You cannot read it without realizing how extraordinary elephants are and how extraordinarily bad humans, until only very recently, have treated them. To understand what has happened to change our attitude, I can think of no better book than this. It is a labor of love, and I know many people will respond in kind. Anyone who loves elephants will love this book."— Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Ph.D., author of Dogs Never Lie About Love and Beasts: What Animals Can Teach Us About the Origins of Good and Evil
 
"Last Chain on Billie is a fact-filled page-turning biography of a magnificent circus elephant's long, painful, and unpredictable journey from reprehensible confinement to freedom. It is at once riveting, haunting, and inspirational. Billie's story kept me up at night - tearful and joyful - as she entered and then wouldn't leave my heart. I also was deeply moved by the selfless work of the wonderful people who ultimately were able to free her once and for all so she could live out her life in safety and peace and with the dignity she so deserves. This outstanding and groundbreaking book will make a difference for other circus elephants and other 'entertainment animals' who find themselves living horrific and hopeless lives filled with fear, stress, and uncertainty. It gave me hope."— Marc Bekoff, author of Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed, The Emotional Lives of Animals, and Rewilding Our Hearts

"Today, Billie must celebrate every day, for she enjoys a more normal life, thanks to caring humans who spoke up for her and her like.  Although the dream of returning to her homeland and her family can never be fulfilled, at least she has other elephant friends and caring humans who treat her kindly.  Her story will go a long way towards helping others and saving them from a cruel life of bondage and servitude.  Her story will educate people around the world about the nature of her iconic species, sparing many other young elephants miserable captivity."—Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick DBE, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Nairobi, Kenya, and author of Love, Life, and Elephants
 
"...both heartrending and uplifting...a well-researched winner."—Booklist (starred review)
 
"Vivid...A moving and informative account of the plight of trained elephants in the U.S."—Kirkus Reviews
 
 
 

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Carol Bradley

  • CAROL BRADLEY is an award-winning former newspaper reporter and the author of the critically praised Saving Gracie: How One Dog Escaped the Shadowy World of American Puppy Mills. She studied animal law at Harvard University, where she was one of two dozen journalists worldwide chosen in 2003 to spend a year as a Nieman Fellow. She lives in Montana with her family.
  • Carol Bradley
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Available Formats and Book Details

Last Chain On Billie

How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top

Carol Bradley

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

St. Martin's Press

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