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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

116 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Serving as a volunteer at The Elephant Santuary was awesome. The elephants on site are so well cared for and have so much room to roam and to do what elephants do. We were put to work, painting, relocating items, snipping banana leaves for enrichment, pulling weeds and doing general clean-up. What a treat in that we were fortunate and able to spot some elephants throughout the day. TES Staff were so knowledgable and kind, sharing information and their stories with us.

If you are thinking of volunteering or donating to TES, just do it. You won't regret it!

A big Thank you to TES for the experience. You are in my heart forever.

Donor

Rating: 5

The Elephant Sanctuary (TES) is an organization that truly works to do good, and does so very efficiently. I have volunteered and donated for over five years so I know this firsthand. Recently TES was rated the #1 charity in Tennessee with a 96.3% rating. It was found that 83.9% of donations are plowed right back into Sanctuary operations, because everything about elephants is big, including the cost of their care! Only 9.8% goes to administrative costs. This is a remarkable and sustained history that enables TES to provide a forever home and proper care to aging elephants whose lives were a litany of abuse and mistreatment. Help them help these gentle giants, because with the generosity of their donors this organization is able to fund advanced veterinarian care for aging elephants and use the knowledge gained to help other captive elephants as well. TES also helps educate children through its distance learning programs, and opened the Elephant Discovery Center to provide hands on self-guided exhibits, an outdoor classroom, and additional educational programming so future generations can learn about elephants. A very worthy and well run organization!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Out of all the volunteer work I've ever done, I cannot recall a better, more fulfilling experience than working at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee this past summer. Aside from just knowing we were helping a very worthwhile cause, there were other positive things about working with this group. Todd Montgomery and the other staff were super nice, extremely knowledgeable and very well organized/prepared for everyone, so there was no wasted time sitting around waiting or feeling like any of our time there was unnecessary. This is a very quality, first rate program to volunteer with and one which I am happy to have spent my time and effort on. Thank you, E.S. for a great and memorable experience and your continued good work!
Mike G.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This experience.was a dream come true for me, an elephant lover. There is no guarantee that you’ll see an elephant but you can be happy to know that this is a true sanctuary where the elephant’s needs come before people’s. I went in August of 2018, I was with 9 other people who loved elephants as much as me, what a pleasure! We all worked hard and had fun. I intend to continue to volunteer as often as they will have me. It was a true learning experience. Everyone was so nice. Bonus, we did see elephants! It was magnificent! They are so beautiful and seem to know we were there to help them. Love was definitely in the air!

Writer

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Thrilled!! Exuberant!!! Just a few adjectives to best describe our most phenomenal volunteer day ever at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee!!!

Never have we sweat so much...yet having the time of our lives hoping to help staff make a difference for the girls!! Our volunteer team was top notch!! We pulled weeds at The Elephant Discovery Center, then car pooled to the Sanctuary where we unloaded and stacked hay, made tire treats filled with bamboo and grape vines, cleared vines from fencing, cut banana leaves to make enrichment treats for the girls using peanut butter, pumpkin, celery and popcorn to make a sort of burrito for the girls!

We listened, learned and walked our talk that day with the stellar help of of our organized and exceptional volunteer guides Todd and Kaitlin... who were working right there with us!! The work done at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee has educated the world about elephants! This top notch facility and staff continuously need our volunteer and financial help to better the lives of these girls... and elephants around the world!

Giddy that 4 of the girls made an appearance providing some extraordinary memories!!

Grateful for the grand opportunity to help staff help the elephants... and well worth the 11 hour drive from Iowa!

Absolutely hope to be able to volunteer again someday!!!

1 Christie M.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We spent a day volunteering with the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. The communication prior to the visit was prompt and complete. The day itself was everything we hoped for and more (as we were lucky enough to actually see some of the elephants--they are clear that you are not guaranteed to see any elephants). The environment was very clean, the caregivers and volunteer guides answered all questions and explained a lot about how the sanctuary works.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I try to get involved in causes I believe in. The Elephant Sanctuary at Hohenwald is by far my most amazing volunteer work. Todd and the veterinarian for the elephants made it such an unbelievable experience. Filling the tires and barrels with goodies for the elephants to work for was such fun. I try to send some type of donation whenever I can. The place is amazing. They truly live to care for these beautiful creatures. The elephants stories are sad but their rest of their lives after entering the sanctuary surely have to be happy and peaceful They so deserve it. If I won the lottery I would donate most of it to the sanctuary. It needs to continue to be able to continue to care for these elephants and the future ones the sanctuary gets. The grounds are well kept and I was amazed how organized and clean their barns and stalls are! My favorite was to hear of Shirley turning 70!!They are doing it right for her to reach such an amazing age and still be basically healthy. The hard work these people do shows true Dedication to these giants. Anyone reading this that is able to donate- do it!! For the love of elephants to have a place to live out their life without chains and abuse- but peaceful and free

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My wife and I volunteered at the Elephant Sanctuary. During that experience we were able to work and visit with Sanctuary staff and tour parts of the Sanctuary. This opportunity confirmed (actually, exceeded) our initial positive perception of the organization, it's managament, it's goals and the dedication and expertise of the staff.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My husband and I spent a Saturday volunteering at the Elephant Sanctuary and it was an incredible experience. We got to learn so much while helping out this wonderful organization who do so much to help not only elephants living within the sanctuary, but around the world through their research, etc. The day included helping with landscaping projects, cleanup, making enrichment for the elephants and more. The staff was wonderful and full of fun facts and anecdotes. We hope to have the opportunity to return and volunteer again!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I drove down from Michigan for one of the volunteer days and it was an amazing experience! I learned so much about the Sanctuary and their mission as well as many great facts about elephants, the impact we have on them, and what we need to do to conserve their habitat. I also learned the heartbreaking stories of a few of their retired circus elephant but it is great to know they are in excellent care, in their new home, in Tennessee. The volunteer day was particularly interesting to me because I am currently a Zoology major and it was great to be exposed to the wonderful ways they care for and enrich the elephants! The staff was very helpful with the information they provided for education and safety. They worked alongside the volunteers and made it a fun day for everyone.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The sanctuary is a caring, safe, and well-run facility offering retired elephants peace in their later years. While the site is not open to the public, and rightly so (the elephants are not meant to be on display in any way), the Discovery Center in Hohenwald provides education, and inspiration to all of us to become involved. When you learn that these ellies have big hearts, souls, and senses of humor, how can you not donate a little to ensure their species continues? View the elliecams to see these wonderful creatures go about their days. I am proud to say that I was a volunteer this past summer.

Jenny B.4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I started following and donating to The Elephant Sanctuary of Tennessee because my sister LOVES elephants. We became members, and decided to do a volunteer day together this summer. Everything about the Sanctuary far exceeded what I imagined it was, or could be. The volunteer program was very well organized, the staff was amazing, and the actual land/living conditions were breathtaking. Volunteering made us want to take a more active role in donating here.

lisaspups

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I live in Winston-Salem, NC, and I have volunteered for TES several times over the years. The fact that I am willing to drive over 7 hours, one-way, will hopefully give you an idea of how much I love volunteering for them. I have never had one bad experience. The work can be very physical, but it is so rewarding. The staff is always friendly and ready to answer any questions., and the stories they can tell!

I have been fortunate to catch sight of the girls on just about every visit, but even if I didn't, it would not matter. The knowledge that I contributed in some small way to their well-being and quality of life makes the trip more than worthwhile. I wish the same for every one that has the chance to volunteer for this wonderful organization.

Johnna H.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My experiences volunteering with The Elephant Sanctuary have been outstanding. While it is hard work for the onsite visits, the elephants and their staff make it an extremely rewarding and remarkable experience. I am grateful to have had a chance to volunteer onsite on behalf of these wonderful animals and I hope to continue to do so. I have also enjoyed volunteering as an Elembassador. Here, I raise awareness about the needs of elephants in captivity and provide information about the Sanctuary. I feel fully supported by the Sanctuary staff. They provide online training, refresher courses, and will answer questions.
Thank you.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The volunteer experience at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee was AMAZING. To be able to support the work of this special place is something everybody who cares about elephants (or any creatures that are regularly exploited) should experience. It was so special to be able to contribute physically, directly supporting all that is done day in and day out to make these elephant's lives and home a safe and nurturing place. The staff were very friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about their work. The activities were engaging and everything was very well-managed (communication, timing, transportation, etc.). This is a very special place with very dedicated staff, and anybody who has the opportunity to volunteer should do it!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The dedication of this organization is absolutely amazing. I was honored to have the opportunity to participate in one of the volunteer days and can not even begin to describe the depth of consideration that is taken by the staff to care for the elephants who reside here. I was also very impressed by the discovery center and excited for the upcoming expansions. Thanks to the knowledgeable and kind staff, I learned a lot about elephants and the various roles of the sanctuary in their preservation.

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.