Frequently Asked Questions

Select a category below.


How is The Elephant Sanctuary different from other facilities caring for elephants?

• The Elephant Sanctuary is one of two sanctuaries for elephants in North America accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

• The Elephant Sanctuary is the only sanctuary for elephants in North America certified by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

• The Elephant Sanctuary does not condone free contact management or dominance training of elephants and takes a stand against the use of the ankus (bullhook). 

• The Elephant Sanctuary does not support the use of elephants in entertainment. 

• Elephants are wild animals with complex physical and social needs not supported by the training, performing, confinement and travel demanded of elephants in entertainment. (Reference: Carol Bradley, Last Chain on Billie: How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top)

Does The Elephant Sanctuary breed elephants?

• The organization does not support increasing the number of captive elephants. 

• There is no assurance elephants born in captivity will ever be released in the wild.

How do elephants come to The Elephant Sanctuary?
  • Many of the resident elephants have come here as the result of collaboration between the elephant’s owners and The Sanctuary, and each is remarkable and unique. Retirement of an elephant from exhibit and/or performing is the decision of the legal owner. 
    • September 24, 2015: African elephant, Hadari (age 33), became the 25th elephant to retire to The Sanctuary. She was retired from exhibition by her owner and the Nashville Zoo where she lived for 20 years.
    • November 6, 2015: African elephants, Sukari (age 31) and Rosie (age 44), joined Hadari at The Sanctuary at the request of the Nashville Zoo.
  • The Sanctuary stands ready to discuss the option of a sanctuary retirement and its benefits with owners and guardians of elephants living in captivity. 
    • In serious situations where the owner fails to comply with the Animal Welfare Act,  Elephants may be confiscated by the authority of the United States Department of Agriculture.
    • November 22, 2003: Asian elephant, Delhi, was confiscated from the Hawthorn Corporation for failure to comply with the Animal Welfare Act. Delhi was placed with The Elephant Sanctuary under USDA authority. Delhi was the first elephant confiscated in America.
    • November 8, 2008: Asian bull elephant, Ned, was confiscated from a circus trainer by the USDA for failure to comply with the Animal Welfare Act and was placed by USDA authority with The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.
How can I learn more about The Elephant Sanctuary?

• The Sanctuary's Distance Learning program provides live webinars for classrooms all over the world. The program utilizes staff led two-way conversation, photos, videos, and live-streaming footage from the elephants' habitats. Visit to learn more.

• The Elephant Discovery Center in downtown Hohenwald, TN includes interactive multi-media exhibits, a theater, an outdoor classroom, and regularly scheduled programming about elephants, the purpose of Sanctuary, and conservation efforts in the wild. Visit to learn more. 

What makes Tennessee a good home for elephants?

• The climate of Middle TN is mild for most of the year. 

• Seasonal variations offer a range of vegetation for foraging and enrichment.

• The elephants at The Sanctuary all have free-choice year round access to expansive habitats and heated barns.

I'm interested in a career in elephant care or conservation. Where do I start?

Many people in the animal care and conservation field have degrees in zoology, biology, wildlife conservation, and wildlife management. The Sanctuary's Care Staff recommends getting volunteer and internship experience during college. Often, local wildlife rescue organizations are a great place to start. These experiences not only help you decide your specific areas of interest but can also help new graduates get jobs in their desired area of work. Internships are often advertised on organization websites such as Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) and Association of Zoos and Aquarium Many universities also offer Study Abroad programs, which allow students to receive college credit while studying in range countries. 

What is The Elephant Sanctuary?

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, founded in 1995, is the nation’s largest natural-habitat refuge developed specifically for African and Asian elephants. Accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) and certified by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), The Sanctuary operates on 3,060 acres in Hohenwald, TN – 85 miles southwest of Nashville. 

The Sanctuary exists for two reasons: 

  • Provide captive elephants with individualized care, the companionship of a herd, and the opportunity to live out their lives in a safe haven dedicated to their wellbeing. 
  • Raise public awareness of the complex needs of elephants in captivity, and the crisis facing elephants in the wild.

Can we see or visit the elephants?

The Elephant Sanctuary is a true sanctuary - a place of retirement for elephants. 

  • You can observe the elephants anytime you like from the comfort of your own home via our live-streaming EleCams.
  • The needs of the elephants have always been and will always be our top priority. 
  • The elephant habitats are not open to visitors. 
  • The Elephant Discovery Center in downtown Hohenwald, TN includes interactive multi-media exhibits, a theater, an outdoor classroom, and regularly scheduled programming about elephants, the purpose of Sanctuary, and conservation efforts in the wild. Visit to learn more.

Are the elephants at The Elephant Sanctuary male or female?

The Sanctuary is equipped to house both female and male elephant residents!

The Elephant Sanctuary was originally founded to provide safe refuge for captive female Asian elephants, because female Asian elephants were identified as having the greatest need and were most often used in performance and entertainment at that time. The Sanctuary was eventually asked to provide for female African elephants, and in 2004, the first African elephants arrived.

In 2008, the United States Department of Agriculture confiscated Ned, an Asian male elephant, whose owner allegedly failed to comply with the Animal Welfare Act. Under the USDA’s authority, Ned was placed with The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. His stay was intended to be only temporary until he recovered and could make a cross-country move to a permanent facility. Ned was seriously underweight, and in the months that followed, his health did not improve. After only six months of Sanctuary, Ned passed away.

With a rise in the number of male elephants being born in captivity, The Sanctuary pledged to build facilities that could house any elephant in need of care. Our first barn and habitat built specifically to accommodate either a female or male elephant was completed in 2021, and in January 2023, we welcomed our first permanent bull resident! We will continue to expand to accommodate additional bulls in the future.

Discovery Center

Who is the best audience for The Elephant Discovery Center?
  • Our exhibits are designed for the whole family (please see Adult Supervision policy). Our exhibits are designed for adults to play and learn as well as children. 
Are there any elephants on display at The Elephant Discovery Center?
  • No elephants are on display at The Elephant Discovery Center; they are retired from their public life.
Can I drop my kids off (Adult Supervision policy)?
  • We ask that an adult accompany children under the age of 16 at all times, to ensure the best experience for all of our guests.
Can I bring my dog?
  • Certified service animals are permitted.
Can we take pictures while we are there?
  • Photos and video for personal use may be taken inside The Elephant Discovery Center with available light. Tripods and professional lights may not be used. Publication or sale of photographs and videos is not allowed without the permission of The Elephant Sanctuary staff.
What happens if I lost my glasses, cell phone, jacket, etc., when I was there?
  • We maintain a lost and found. If you have lost an item, you may check with the Guest Services desk to see if it has been returned. 
  • Unclaimed items are donated after 30 days.
What is the best time of day to visit?
  • Weekday mornings are our busiest time for school field trips and group visits. Afternoons and Saturdays are typically better suited to drop-in visitors. Crowds vary depending on holidays, school vacations, weather, etc. Please feel free to call ahead to plan your trip.
Are there concessions available at The Elephant Discovery Center?
  • The Elephant Discovery Center does not have food or drink available for purchase. There is a water fountain available by the restrooms. 
  • We ask that you enjoy any food and drink outside of the exhibit space. 
  • Staff members are happy to make dining recommendations in the community.
What does it mean to be KultureCity® Certified?

The Discovery Center is KultureCity® Certified. KultureCity is the nation's leading nonprofit on sensory accessibility and acceptance for those with invisible disabilities and aims to provide individuals with sensory challenges with the same experiences and opportunities as others. The Elephant Sanctuary has partnered with KultureCity to enhance our ability to assist and accommodate all — by supplying our staff with annual training and offering additional support and resources to those who may face sensory processing needs.

The certification process helps to ensure Staff at The Discovery Center are trained by leading medical professionals on how to recognize those with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation. KultureCity Sensory Bags have been equipped with noise-canceling headphones (provided by Puro Sound Labs), fidget tools, verbal cue cards, and KCVIP lanyard, which will be available to all visitors in need. Signs have been placed around the museum which indicate where loud or unexpected noises may occur, and a “quiet zone” for those who may benefit from it.

Is The Elephant Discovery Center located on The Elephant Sanctuary grounds?
  • No — The Elephant Discovery Center is located in downtown Hohenwald. The Sanctuary grounds are not open to visitors, but you can always see what the elephants are up to via our live-streaming EleCams on our website!
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