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2019 Top-Rated Nonprofit

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

130 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It makes my heart glad to know there are people and places out there that care for Elephants that have been through hell and back, to finally reach the Elephant Sanctuary. The staff was inviting and took time to answer our many questions. I was impressed with the cleanliness of the African Elephant barn we visited. The floors, steer spaces for each Elephant and equipment shone clean and free of dirt. Though unexpected, we did see three of the resident Elephants, which was a true gift! We were given important responsibilities to help make the Elephants lives better. We filled tires with hay or bamboo and then went out into the African Elephant encloser and hid hay and tree branches for the Elephants to root around, find and eat. The Elephant Sanctuary is a true gift to these magnificent animals and a gift to those of us fortunate enough to participate at the Sanctuary. Glorious day!

Vicki Parks H.

Donor

Rating: 5

I have donated for a few years to this truly worthy sanctuary!

Mary Jo N.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My husband and I have donated to this nonprofit for years. It is an absolutely wonderful sanctuary for retired circus and zoo elephants. I wish all elephants that have wrongly been used in entertainment could live in such a great sanctuary.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Absolutely love this elephant sanctuary! I was lucky enough to volunteer there and learn more about what they do there. Amazing staff, extremely clean and well kept, and driven with love and compassion.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I recently had the pleasure of volunteering for a day at The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN. As a regular donor, I have always been impressed with their mission and core values, but my experience being physically there to work with the staff on the actual property exceeded all expectations. The dedication, care, and heartfelt commitment to the health and happiness of these animals was heartwarming and profound. We were able to participate in several activities and I felt that we truly made a difference even though we were only there for one day. I was never so happy to be sweaty and dirty! It was truly a meaningful experience!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Elephant Sanctuary on June 29, 2019. The Discovery Center in Hohenwald, TN was the beginning of an exceptional day. This building is designed in a clean, family friendly, interactive and educational way. Todd Montgomery, Education & Volunteer Director, does an amazing job with presentations for the public, schools and our group of volunteers on the 29th. We spent the day doing manual labor type "chores", such as weeding at the main property, pruning trees at the Sanctuary, cutting vines off fences, making awesome elephant enrichment toys, (think Kong toys for elephants, with tires stuffed with hay and bamboo leaves), and much more.

The care, dedication and professionalism of all staff at this Elephant Sanctuary is absolutely five stars. Their heartfelt feeling for what they do shines while watching them work and in their connection with the elephants. It was a fantastic day.

Thank you all from your friends in Georgia!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I just volunteered for a day at the Hohenwald, TN Elephant Sanctuary. What a heartwarming experience. It was a hot, sweaty day of physical labor and I wish I could do it every week. The elephants are so well loved and cared for. They have so much room to roam and do whatever they want. After years of abuse and loneliness to have this freedom and companionship is just awesome. The workers we came into contact with were professional and knowledgeable. It’s all about the elephants and what they need and want. What an amazing place.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I recently had the opportunity to volunteer at the sanctuary after several years of being a member. I had already been impressed by their mission, education, and outreach materials, but what I saw in person blew me away! Every single person we met who worked for the Sanctuary was knowledgeable, passionate, and eager to share the mission. We learned about whole-elephant care, the education and advocacy work they do around the world, and how each elephant is treated as an individual, with the best possible care tailored to it. The sanctuary grounds themselves were beautiful and immaculate. The care staff truly love “their girls”. This is a true sanctuary for these noble beings that truly deserve it!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My daughter and I volunteered on 6/1/2019 and it was a wonderful day. We were impressed by the quality of the structures that housed "the girls" and the surroundings that they roamed. I've never seen such clean barns! The staff was professional yet warm and welcoming.
Most importantly, the sanctuary truly belongs to the elephants. They do as they please and any contact with people is totally voluntary, as it should be!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My daughter and I volunteered on 4/20/19. It was our first experience with the Elephant Sanctuary. We drove down from Wisconsin and had an amazing time! The visitor/education center in town is beautiful and the elephant grounds are spectacular. Through every step of the way, you can see and feel that everyone has the elephant's best interests in mind. The staff and volunteers are professional and the expectations are clearly communicated. I would highly recommend this nonprofit to anyone looking to better the lives of these precious elephants. I support the organization 100%. They are doing fantastic work! Thank you!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered on April 20, 2019 and it was an amazing experience. The facility was exactly as it stands to be, a safe haven and sanctuary for these amazing creatures. The staff was incredible and very knowledgeable giving us insight as to the daily care and treatment of the elephants. Each elephant has their own distinct personality as you can imagine and it was so interesting to hear about how each one acts and interacts in their daily life. I was one of ten volunteers that day, we mulched, painted, made enrichments for the elephants. It was an awarding experiencing knowing my little time there did some good for this non-profit and the elephants that live there. I traveled from Michigan and would do so again to help out. I came back home not only fulfilled that I had done a good deed, but with even more respect and admiration of this facility and the work they do to cherish and enable these wonderful elephants live out their remaining lives in peace.

Karin Kounelis
Kalamazoo, MI

Martha S.2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I do not remember when or how I got involved with the Elephant Sanctuary except that I was so proud that this very amazing organization was in my state (Tennessee). Then one day about 4 years ago I got an e-mail about the volunteer days and I jumped on that response. And I won the lottery! I got to pull weeds, rake and pick up dead limbs all day. But the elephants were nearby and I got a few glimpses of them. The best part was putting the stories that Todd told us with each elephant and knowing that I had actually seen her; maybe from a distance but it was worth it.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been donating to this charity for over 10 years. I became aware of them when the elephant I loved and had "grown up" with at the Philadelphia Zoo (Dulary) was sent there when the Zoo decided to close their elephant exhibit. I have followed them closely since then and just recently had the opportunity to volunteer on-site during one of their volunteer days. I got to see first-hand the conditions of the sanctuary (which are amazing) and the staff (also amazing) who care for these magnificent animals. They do great work day in and day out to care for the elephants and allow them to live as freely as possible as just elephants. All contact is protected and elephants are free at all times to decide what they do. Training for care is done through positive reinforcement. They have also done great work educating the public about the plight of captive elephants and what people can do to help. They are also helping to revitalize the local downtown by creating the Elephant Discovery Center in Hohenwald, TN where the public can go to learn more about elephants and how to help. It is also a wonderful place for school children to visit and they conduct distance learning sessions from there around the world. Just an all-around first rate organization!

Donor

Rating: 5

I just did a birthday fundraiser on facebook
I hope you really di get all the cash. !

Review from Guidestar

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.