• 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)
• 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.
• 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 www.elephants.com/distance-learning 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 www.elephants.com/discovery-center to learn more.
• 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.
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) www.sanctuaryfederation.org and Association of Zoos and Aquarium www.aza.org. Many universities also offer Study Abroad programs, which allow students to receive college credit while studying in range countries.
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:
The Elephant Sanctuary is a true sanctuary - a place of retirement for elephants.
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.
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.