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Elephant Sanctuary

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Animals, Protection of Endangered Species

Mission: The Elephant Sanctuary exists to 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 well-being; and to raise public awareness of the complex needs of elephants in captivity, and the crisis facing elephants in the wild.

Results: The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is the nation's largest natural habitat refuge developed specifically for endangered African and Asian elephants. The Sanctuary operates on 2,700 acres in Hohenwald, Tennessee—85 miles southwest of Nashville. Since 1995, The Sanctuary has given safe haven to a total of 27 elephants retired from entertainment and exhibition, providing them with herd, home, rest, refuge and individualized care for life. As an accredited sanctuary, the habitat where the elephants live is not open to the public. Instead, nearly 3 million viewers annually observe these elephants just being elephants via live-streaming Elecams on our website at www.elephants.com.

Target demographics: older, sick and/or needy elephants

Direct beneficiaries per year: 13 elephants. Educational outreach on elephants was made available via Distance Learning to nearly 2,153 K-12 students in seventeen states and one foreign country. Seventy-one new EleAmbassadors were trained as volunteer representatives for The Sanctuary in 29 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces. Nearly 1,400 visitors attended educational programs held at The Sanctuary's Welcome Center in downtown Hohenwald, TN. And 2.9 million individuals experienced The Elephant Sanctuary online.

Geographic areas served: Hohenwald, Tennessee

Programs: habitat care, nutritional care, health care and educational programs.

Community Stories

100 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

So my experience as a volunteer for the sanctuary was wonderful. We spent time cutting the vines on the outside fence, cutting down bamboo leaves and creating treats for the elephants. I thought it was wonderful that one of the caregivers for two of the elephants spent the day with us. We were able to ask questions and hear stories from an inside perspective.

Todd was very informative and guided us safely throughout the day. The day was structured but we were not rushed. We had plenty of time for breaks, lunch and just enjoying the experience and taking it all in.

With or without a chance to see an elephant it was such a rewarding day from beginning to end. I would definitely do it again and highly recommend the experience.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I came upon the Elephant Sanctuary around the time of a great sadness in my life and there on 20/20, a television program, a film of Sissy was being shown, being brutalized. Due to the outrage of the injustice, Sissy was retired to TES. That is when I started to spend time, educating myself with captive elephants. How they behave, show affection and bond with each other or other species, specifically when they are in a habitat that allows them to be their elephant selves. They captivated my imagination and hope for the planet.

So my experience on October 21st this year was extremely meaningful and emotional. I enjoyed cutting the vines on the outside fence, enjoyed creating treats for the African elephants and really enjoyed the stories from the caregivers and staff, but the most awesome experience beyond what I cared to hope for was seeing the elephants themselves. Pure majesty and beauty. The beloved Sissy was out in the field when I first saw her and tears of joy and other unnamable emotions gushed out of me. It felt surreal and real all at once. I loved seeing all the elephants we crossed paths with ...Sissy was beautifully calm.

I can't thank Todd enough for surprising our group with the opportunity of looking out on five elephants within the Q habitat. Todd was very informative and guided us safely to our final destination, creating a memorable day for all involved. I will carry this experience with me for the rest of my life and I am eternally grateful for all who are involved caring for these magnificent animals.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My husband and I had the opportunity to visit the sanctuary as part of a volunteer day. We walked a portion of the people fence line to remove vines, and we made enrichment activities for the elephants in the African barn which was super clean, roomy, seemed to designed to be comfortable for the elephants when they want/need to be inside. We had the opportunity to meet staff and see where some of the elephants live. First, it is obvious that the staff sincerely cares about and for the elephants. Everything we saw inspired confidence that sanctuary staff is doing a wonderful job in taking care of elephants who for the most part had difficult lives prior to coming to the sanctuary. I like that these elephants no longer have to be on public display and that they have choice in how they want to spend their days. I also like the educational mission of the sanctuary and the transparency that the online elecams provide. It is wonderful to be able to see the elephants online dusting themselves, rolling in mud or co-mingling with deer and turkey.

Sam H.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It's amazing how respectful this sanctuary is of their elephants. You can tell they genuinely care about each and every one. Todd, and I'm sure many other workers, can identify any one of the elephants from such a far distance.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a volunteer for the Elephant Sanctuary, I was overwhelmed by the dedication their staff has to give these elephants the most naturalistic home possible. Their mission is really not in exposing more people to elephants, but in providing elephants with a safe space, and educating people in the proper ways to protect these endangered animals.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the most incredible weekend volunteering at the Elephant Sanctuary over my University's fall break. I learned so much about the characteristics, history and behaviors of the elephants and worked hard alongside my peers to help with the upkeep of the sanctuary. We trimmed vines along part of the perimeter of the grounds, made enrichment treats, and cleaned/organized the sanctuary office. THANK YOU to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee for giving us the chance to help out! I am overjoyed and feel so lucky to be able to volunteer and be able to see in person, how the caregivers take care of the elephants. It was a wonderfully rewarding experience, and something I'll hold close to my heart!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I just volunteered for the second time...the first time was 4 years ago.
It was a very rewarding experience helping TES staff to get some extra things done, being able to talk to them directly about the things they do, seeing a bit of the sanctuary grounds and how the elephants live, and my favorite part is that I got to do something for these wonderful animals.
It was also great to see the progress made in 4 years, the wonderful education/welcome center they are developing, and their dedication to elephant conservation and care.
I hope to volunteer again in the future.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I could not be more thrilled the the opportunities I've had to volunteer with the Elephant Sanctuary. The staff involved are just the best and work hard to provide a unique and fun experience for everybody. Their knowledge and passion for the elephants at the sanctuary and for educating the public on proper treatment of wildlife is incredible. I have learned so much working with them and will continue to advocate on behalf of the sanctuary in every way I can going forward. I can't say enough about how impressed I am with the sanctuary staff and the work they do!

Anastasia I.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Volunteer day at the elephant sanctuary is an unforgettable experience. We were able to clean up a lot of areas that sanctuary staff would otherwise not have the time to get to, and we were able to learn a lot more about the sanctuary and why it all matters. We were able to catch glimpses of the elephants from afar (though a viewing is not guaranteed), which helped to remind us all why we were there performing manual labor.

TES is truly an amazing place for elephants and humans alike to learn, rest, and be nurtured.

Donor

Rating: 5

what can be said but it is one of the premier true sanctuaries, if not the oly true sanctuary for eles in the usa and possibly the world. if your an elephant to be sent here is like you went to heaven and they deserve no less. to spend their last day or years here is the greatest.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the opportunity to volunteer for a day at The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN this past weekend. The experience was everything I had hoped for and then some. Our leader, Todd, and one of the caregivers who accompanied us for the day, Joseph, were very knowledgeable, patient and enthusiastic about their mission. To see the impressive grounds (and luckily for us all of its 10 residents) in person was nothing short of extraordinary! Our day started with an informative background of the sanctuary and the elephants that have been retired there, as well enlightenment on the plight of these animals both in captivity and the wild. Afterwards, we started on a list of various projects for the day, which included weeding and mulching the garden beds at the education center, clearing the perimeter fence from encroaching honeysuckle vines, picking banana leaves and making treats for the elephants. Todd took the time to explain how each activity contributed to the greater operation of the sanctuary which is indeed awe-inspiring. And hearing about each elephant's personality and behavioral quirks from the caregivers we encountered really showed their respect and dedication to these magnificent animals. I do hope I will one day get the chance to volunteer my time to this wonderful organization again. In short, it's good for the soul!

Molly Shasteen
(Nashville, TN)

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My day of volunteering at The Elephant Sanctuary far exceeded any expectations that I'd had. I have been following and financially supporting the sanctuary for close to 20 years, so it was very interesting to see the operation in person. Every person that we encountered who worked at the sanctuary was very positive and clearly loved their jobs. And you can tell that lots and lots of hard work goes into keeping the sanctuary running smoothly.
The volunteer day was clearly planned and structured, but loose enough to easily accommodate bathroom, lunch and rest breaks. None of the tasks that we completed were too strenuous (weeding, making treats for the elephants) and it felt great to be able to make a little difference in the lives of the elephants.
And best of all: we were able to see all 10 resident elephants! I had prepared myself to not see any of them, so I'm still beyond thrilled that we were able to see them (some relatively close and some pretty far away) in such a free environment. It was an amazing, check-it-off-the-bucket-list kind of day!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Volunteering at The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN was nothing short of a spiritual experience for me. I have been a supporter of the Sanctuary for several years, but actually being there and seeing what this organization does is impressive. The facilities are spotless. The grounds are beautifully kept. And all this is accomplished 100% through private donations. The staff we interacted with obviously love their jobs and love the elephants. The elephants look HAPPY and are allowed to just be elephants. The Elephant Sanctuary is a beautiful organization.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We feel so lost in a world that seems to be disappearing...invaluable land being bulldozed away, senseless killings of animals, pollution and poverty overtaking our country...it feels overwhelming. Our world needs people to feel empowered that they can stand up to make a change. One way is supporting the Elephant Sanctuary. As a busy teacher, mom and wife , I don't always know the way to change what I see that is so wrong. Knowing I am helping to change the world for better in such a small way fills my heart with joy. Please consider helping this amazing organization. You will feel connected to these magnificent creatures!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We started our day at the Elephant Sanctuary Discovery Center. We met Todd there and he gave us some background on the elephants and the sanctuary. We then went to the sanctuary where we weeded, made treats and enrichment items for the elephants. We were able to see five of the elephants at various times during the day. The staff was fantastic, they answered all our questions and were very informative. It was very obvious how much they care for these animals. Volunteering was a wonderful experience and I am so glad I was given the opportunity.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My husband and I recently had the incredible opportunity to volunteer for a day at the Elephant Sanctuary. We started off in downtown Hohenwald at the Discovery Center, which is a beautiful facility with lots of fun, educational exhibits. From here we went to the Sanctuary, where we cleaned up brush along some of the fences, and made enrichment devices for the elephants (which we got to see used later in the day!). The day was extremely well organized, and very informative. While it was hard work, we got quite a bit of time for education purposes - learning about the elephants and how the sanctuary is run. You can see that the staff here are very passionate about what they do, and only want the best for these elephants. Overall it was an incredible experience which I would participate in again in a heartbeat.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was aware of this group since I live in the area, but am also gratified that they have the top rating from Charity Navigator for accountability, transparency, and financial management. They are also accredited by the Global Federatin of Animal Sanctuaries. Their primary mission is providing a caring, free-range environment for elephants who had lived lives of confinement or performing, and as such they are not open for public display or tours. They also perform a valuable educational mission about elephants and the threats to their survival both in captivity and in the wild.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

For my Spring Break, a group of my fellow students and I helped out at the Elephant Sanctuary for a week. Every day was such a rewarding experience. The staff set aside time to get to know us and teach us more about elephants and what we can do to help them. Todd Montgomery was a perfect leader and, along with every member, it was evident he truly loved his job and cared about the elephants. So much work goes into creating the best possible home for the elephants. They work hard to keep it clean and in tiptop shape. I have absolutely no complaints!

Ashton J.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This charity does amazing things for captive elephants that have had troubling past. Their organization is inspiring!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Elephant Sanctuary is truly heaven on earth for these elephants. Being given the opportunity to do tasks to support their care is amazing. I was so sad when the day was over. The staff is so great. We had tasks to do that we could see would directly impact the girls which was so rewarding. If you have the opportunity to volunteer, you will be blessed. Seeing the girls was an added bonus and I will never forget it.