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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 28 elephants retired from performance 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 the elephants via live-streaming Elecams on our website at www.elephants.com.

Target demographics: elephants retired from performance and exhibition

Direct beneficiaries per year: 11 elephants. Educational outreach on elephants was made available via Distance Learning to more than 14,000 students in 44 states, 27 countries, and five Canadian provinces. More than 250 individuals volunteered their time for 43 on-site volunteer days totaling in 1,928 donated hours.

Geographic areas served: Hohenwald, Tennessee

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

Community Stories

178 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

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.

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.

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.

Donor

Rating: 5

I fell in love at 6 years old with Alice, the first elephant I've ever met. Since the Elephant Sanctuary opened, I discovered a way to have that connection again, later in my life, by supporting this organization that offers a life home to retired zoo and circus elephants. The work and dedication the staff brings to enrich the lives and help "the girls" live out their days in rural Tennessee should be reconized and embraced for keeping the sanctuary a private place. Their outreach via the website and social media helps one be part of the elephants world and contribute to their well being and care. Support The Elephant Sanctuary today.

Diane201

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Elephant Sanctuary of Tennessee is an absolutely amazing facility. The care and love for these beautiful creatures is evident in many ways from the 2700 kept acres they provide for these retired elephants to roam to the daily foot care routine. The elephants are free to be elephants again. They are no longer for the amusement of humans; therefore, there are no tours. As one of a few people chosen to volunteer for a day of work, I did see some of the elephants but from a distance and never for extended lengths of time. The staff does this to make sure that the elephants do not get anxious or feel they are on display again. It's a TRUE sanctuary run by people who most definitely understand, love, and care passionately for these once abused and ill treated beauties. They ensure that retirement is as blissful as possible. I wish more elephants were this lucky.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a volunteer day at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee (TES). On a beautiful October day my partner and I made our way to the Sanctuary’s Elephant Discovery Center, where we met up with the other volunteers and the Sanctuary’s Education Manager, Todd. We followed him to the grounds of TES, where we spent a thoroughly enjoyable day assisting in various tasks (painting, clearing brush, etc.). We had all been emailed in advance to notify us what activities we would be participating in and what items we needed to bring, so everyone was well prepared with water bottles, sunscreen, etc.
Having done volunteer work for other groups, I found this experience to be one of the best organized and enjoyable endeavors I have undertaken. Todd kept us well informed about the Sanctuary and its operation. In addition, we learned a great deal about elephants and the problems they face in captivity as well as in the wild. We had the opportunity to spend a gorgeous fall day in beautiful middle Tennessee and though we were warned there was no guarantee we would see elephants, we caught a glimpse or two of these majestic animals. All in all this was a fantastic opportunity I hope presents itself again. The Elephant Sanctuary is a very worthy cause that I was happy to volunteer for.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is a private Sanctuary who allow visiting volunteers to participate in improving the property only 8 times a year. You have to sign up for a lottery and hope to be drawn for opportunity to help.

My experience was everything that I hoped for. It was made very special through the stories from Stephanie and Todd helped us understand through the day. We would ask a million questions and it help to reveal the true love this staff has for their elephant family. They know them all by name, history and behavior. They are awe struck on their families' improvements as they get introduce on how to be a free elephant. Some take moments, other take months, but the time does not matter, they all the time they need to be free.

Please image for the first 30 - 40 years of your life, you were confined, poked, prodded, and chained. You had to do things unnatural or get punished. Then finally one glorious day you are given the chance to move to the Elephant Sanctuary. You are still in disbelief.

OH MY.... First you can't believe the unfamiliar freedom and positive reward the humans give you. You have never felt this kind of love and friendship. Then you get to discover other female elephants who want to get to know you and be friends. Really, others like me who want to be my friend? I don't know how to act.

Heaven on earth. That is the best way to describe what might be going on inside the minds of the lucky ones who get to live the rest of their MANY years at the 2, 700 acre private sanctuary. NEVER again on display or having to perform for humans.

Just being an elephant. Doing elephant things. And having humans who care.

Peace

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We were able to volunteer for an afternoon and it was so amazing to be put to work for such a good cause. Visiting the sanctuary is a unique experience and the volunteer experience makes me feel closer to this charity that is doing good for these elephants. I would highly recommend this experience and donating your time (and money) to this charity. It's a beautiful area and I feel lucky to have been able to go.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN the summer of 2016, We traveled from Ohio and arrived ready to roll @ 8:00 am. We painted the stall of an African elephant named Sukari...a beautiful girl with long white tusks. We were informed she rubs her tusks on the bars frequently and therefore a paint job was needed. While we were painting we sneaked peeks at the 4 African elephants in their yard. They are magnificent animals! What an absolute joy to be a part of their world for one day :) After painting, we traveled to the Asian Barn and ate in a nice air conditioned lunchroom. More staff dropped by to answer any and all questions we had about these elephants and elephants in general. After lunch, we weeded grapevines growing into fencing. When complete, we traveled to the "Q" barn. Q for quarantine as some of the elephants have medical issues. There we witnessed the vast area in which they live. We saw 3 Asian elephants peacefully eating and sharing companionship with each other. For the first time in their lives, they can decide what they want to do! This is their retirement home. It was a privilege and honor to give back to these elephants who for years were abused and forced to live in substandard conditions either in circuses or zoos. It was an experience of a lifetime! I hope to return again soon. Judy Volkerding

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was very excited to be selected for a volunteer day at the Elephant Sanctuary, even though it meant working outside in the July heat for most of the day! I appreciated the opportunity to help in any way that I could (weeding and painting barn doors), and I thoroughly enjoyed my fellow volunteers. It was amazing just how far most of them had travelled to be there. Getting to see the Sanctuary in person was priceless for me. It hit home just how much devotion and hard work it must have taken to grow this place into what it is, which is nothing short of astounding!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been donating and volunteering at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN for many years. I have been privileged to participate on 4 separate occasions. Each and every time I learn something new about the elephants that the Sanctuary cares for and come away with a deeper sense of urgency to make others aware of the plight of elephants who are still in zoos and circuses in the U.S. as well as the world. The Elephant Sanctuary staff make us all feel special and a part of the mission to care for these elephants, whether we are pulling weeds, painting doors, clearing brush, etc. It is all for the greater good of the elephants to be allowed to be free and interact with each other in their natural environment. Kudos to the Elephant Sanctuary for 20 years of great work....here's to at least 20 more years.

2

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been a supporter of The Elephant Sanctuary beginning the first year and have the honor of serving as a board member. We receive regular updates from CEO which includes detailed reports from caregivers about the elephants. These reports are profound evidence of the professional knowledge and respect and love the caregivers have for the elephants as individuals. In a perfect universe there would be no captive animals. In the world we inhabit my wish is that all captive animals would have an environment comparable to the sanctuary and would be respected and loved as the elephants at The Elephant Sanctuary.

2

Board Member

Rating: 5

As a member of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee Board of Directors, I am enormously proud to be a part of this outstanding organization! TES is providing superb national leadership in the humane and scientifically sound care of captive elephants. Every time I meet with the caregivers, veterinarians, office staff and fellow Board members, I am reminded of what an outstanding team is working collaboratively to enhance the care of the elephants at TES.

TES is an extraordinarily challenging endeavor: acquiring the land, providing the strong protective fencing, building the barns, recruiting the care staff with both dedication and knowledge, creating the educational programs, developing relationships with the community and regulatory authorities, attracting skilled veterinarians and elephant husbandry leaders, among many others, as well as raising the funding to permit all this good work to happen.

To all this, the commitment of the CEO and staff is both passionate and exemplary. The "girls" thrive in this environment of dedicated caring and competence. They arrive often unwanted, ill, aging and physically compromised. They are renewed, have their medical needs attended to, are comfortable in their heated barns in inclement weather and find joy in exploring the forest and ponds when the sun shines - as it so often does in Hohenwald.

All is done with gentle persuasion; the elephants live in a free-choice environment. This takes great skill and understanding by the caregivers. In all, TES represents the highest standard for captive elephant care in America. This is a profound accomplishment. The welcome mat is out for further elephants to join our happy girls.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It's an honor to write a review for The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee since I have been affiliated with them for over 20 years as a founding member. What started as a small Mom and Pop operation with one elephant has evolved into a massive project with a 4.5 million dollar annual budget. They've rescued 27 elephants and are making room for dozens more.

The reason that this matters so much is that elephants are among the most profound creatures on earth. Their history in captivity is not pretty and the poaching of their tusks is an indescribable crime. Most people do not know of the intellectual wisdom of elephants. Their elaborate brains contain, like humans, VENs (Von Economo Neurons) which are specialized cells that relate to higher notions like empathy, intuition, communication and self-awareness. These neurons are unusual in the animal kingdom and help explain the complex and deeply sensitive nature of elephants. I am proud to say that TES is fulfilling its mission daily by protecting and housing these wonderful elephants and by teaching the world about their value to us all!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Being a volunteer at the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary was an enlightening experience that very few people get the chance to do. I learned so many things about each elephant and about animal rights. All the people I met during my time were so friendly and hard working. You could tell that every person had a passion to be there. I am thankful that I was able to have this educational experience and will tell others about the great things this sanctuary has to offer!

Keep up the amazing work!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

After spending my week at The Elephant Sanctuary as an Alternative Break volunteer, I was blown away. When applying for the trip, I had no idea where the location would be, nor that I would be able to see such magnificent creatures as elephants. I am a Biology major, so animal conservation is something near and dear to me. This caused me to approach the opportunity very critically. However the staff's professionalism and their desire to educate others were astounding. It was also extremely satisfying and peaceful to see the elephants left to enjoy themselves and live out the rest of their days in peace. It was such a meaningful experience to volunteer for a more-than-worthy cause, and I plan to continue supporting TES and the wonderful work that they do.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Let's talk about the elephant in the room: this organization is dazzling. Every person that works here is committed to the mission statement. It's hard to understand the magnitude of that, I know. But in a world where most people go to work, punch a clock, and collect a check without really LIKING what they're a part of, it was refreshing to be surrounded by a staff who pounded the pavement every day for these elephants.
That being said, the experience was nothing short of remarkable. And I don't use that word lightly. In literal terms: remarkable means something worth making a "remark" about. And so here we are. It's hard to express in words how palpable the week was when I volunteered. Imagine this: earth, wind, and fire are mighty elements that can disrupt and change things. So too was the service, education, and reflection throughout the week. It was satisfying doing the work, but it without the education from the staff and the reflection at nights from my group it would've been just taxing labor.
I've written 1 review in my entire life before this. It was for a book that really changed my way of thinking. I felt obligated to write it since it did so much for my self-growth. But I don't fling them out like newspaper. So know that me writing this is a testament to how revered I see this place - and how much I was impacted by it albeit during a week's stay.

They're doing something profound out there in Hohenwald, Tennessee and slowly putting the whole world on notice.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Elephant Sanctuary has the elephants welfare truly at heart. The sanctuary is truly "a sanctuary" allowing elephants to roam freely for acres at their own desire. The staff never makes an elephant do something that she is not interested in. Other than the veterinary care, they operate using a very hands off approach, making the sanctuary the most natural habitat possible for an animal who has been in captivity. The caregivers do not want the elephants to feel that human interaction is necessary, as some elephants have been scarred by humans in their past lives in circuses or zoos. I commend the Elephant Sanctuary for their practices. They proceed with caution with every interaction and keep both the elephant and the caregivers' safety a top priority. The Elephant Sanctuary understands the needs of an elephant and works hard to meet those needs every day. I could not imagine a more perfect place for an elephant to retire.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My group spent a week volunteering with the Elephant Sanctuary and it has been a pivotal experience in my life. With this extended amount of time and good weather we were able to see every single elephant on the property and had the pleasure of witnessing Sissy swimming! The volunteer work was not as direct as I had originally anticipated, but the tasks did vary which kept things interesting. Lastly, I most appreciate the staff of the Elephant Sanctuary taking time every morning to tell us more about the mission and the individual elephants. In this way we were educated about the elephant sanctuary and were able to start our days with some renewed passion to help the elephants in any way we could.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Got a spot on the Elephant Sanctuary's group volunteer day in November 2015 and spent the day raking and bagging lots of fallen leaves for enrichment for the elephants. The weather was (fortunately) cold and wet which made the elephants come close to the Asian elephant barn rather than roaming out in the 2,700 acres of the sanctuary where the general public is not allowed. The barn has heated floors and special flooring to cushion their feet, as well as safe enclosures for each elephant. We ate our brown-bag lunches in a viewing area near the barn and were able to see 5 of the Asian elephant population - but were also cautioned not to stay too long or take too many photos so as not to cause too much anxiety.
This for me is the most impressive part of the Elephant Sanctuary program and mission- they are so sensitive to the elephants' need for privacy and freedom (after a past of exploitation and often violent control methods or even abuse) that they restrict almost all public access to the elephants to remote video cams. While they choose their volunteers (like me) from a pool of people who have supported the sanctuary via a volunteer lottery, they only allow up to 20 volunteers at the Sanctuary 1 day a month 10 months out of the year to work on group projects, while keeping the group closely supervised. As a volunteer you are not guaranteed to see any of the elephants - as they are no longer on exhibit for our gratification but rather have a true sanctuary for their own gratification. But the point is to make these elephants' lives a little better and understand the contrast between their relative freedom and more natural lifestyle compared to the plight of the many elephants still in inhumane captivity.
A total of 14 Asian and African elephants currently live on the sanctuary in a very secluded and well-hidden refuge. (Through the years this organization has been able to rescue 27 elephants from zoos, circuses and other restrictive environments - and has also lead the way toward developing and teaching more humane methods of treating captive elephants). The sanctuary has big build-out plans so that they can take in more and more elephants from inhumane situations as well as to enhance their public education programming.
This organization faces unique challenges - how to promote an animal sanctuary that is not open to the public in the usual way while attracting support from that same public for the expensive operations of caring for such large animals in compassionate ways - plus also advocating for a change in the way our society treats elephants in captivity. They walk that fine line with creativity and passion.

Colleen McMullen

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Wonderful.
Knowing I was doing something to benefits those majestic animals
was humbling

1

Donor

Rating: 5

Great cause! There care for the welfare of elephants is inspiring. The elecams are a great way to share the experience

1 M. Eileen H.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

What The Elephant Sanctuary stands for and accomplishes is impressive to me. In addition to the wonderful work they do with their special elephants, they have an education center in Hohenwald, TN, minutes away from the Sanctuary. They also publish a newsletter that keeps all of us elephant supporters updated on each girl. Their web site is one of the best I have seen in that the history of each elephant can be easily found as well as all of the archived reports about what is going on there on a daily basis.

The unique way that staff write about their charges and tell delightful stories about their every-day activities pulls people into their lives and makes them really care about the elephants and their Sanctuary.

Individuals with strong interests are invited to volunteer at the Sanctuary for one day each year. I did this last year, and it was one of the bigger thrills of my life. It was wonderful meeting Todd, the education director, and all of the other staff and volunteers working there that day.

I have also been trained as an Ele-Ambassador to present programs in my community. The Sanctuary has trained people from all over the country. to be Ele-ambassadors.

I find it easy to donate to the Sanctuary for several reasons. First, because of their outstanding communications I feel that I know personally each of the elephants by name and want to contribute to their well-being as well as participate in many of the fun celebrations that the Sanctuary promotes such as buying a candle for Shirley's 65th birthday or participating in a fun run for Billy.

The Sanctuary continually strives to improve the environment for the "girls" and involve volunteers in the activities conducted there. Another reason I find donating easy is because of their low key approach to fund-raising. The appeals are always very positive and uplifting. And unlike other places to whom I have donated The Sanctuary does not start asking for more money immediately after I donate.

Another way The Sanctuary connects interested people to the elephants is through the cameras mounted around the Sanctuary. Viewers can watch the girls napping, pushing over a tree, swimming in the several ponds, and playing with and enjoying each others company.

The Sanctuary is a peaceful and authentic place that treats its charges with the utmost respect and care. Staff inform the interested about each elephant's activities on a daily basis. We are happy when progress is reported and so sad when we learn of losses.

The Elephant Sanctuary is the only charitable organization I have ever been associated with where I actually feel like part of a family.

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I'm not sure how I first found The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, but the day I found it on-line I was hooked. The website is so helpful with its easily accessible archives, photos, and elephant biographies that I visit it almost every day. The people who write the stories do so in such a tender and loving way that I feel that I personally know each of the Sanctuary residents--both current and past. Many of the stories have brought me to tears of both sadness and happiness.

This Sanctuary is doing phenomenal work with old, sick, abused and/or needy elephants who have been cooped up in zoos and circuses for their whole lives, often without companionship or proper care. They have frequently been captured as babies and taken from their mothers and families to be shipped and sold many times over. The Sanctuary exists to provide a loving, nurturing retirement for these magnificent animals at the conclusion of their mainly sad and abusive working lives.

The Sanctuary is doing educational outreach using eager and willing volunteers (Ele-Ambassadors) to talk to schools and organizations about the nature of elephants and how that nature is being honored and supported through the thousands of acres now owned by the Elephant Sanctuary and the ongoing building and medical care that is constantly required.

The Sanctuary solicits donations, but in a very genuine and non-aggressive way. It also provides the dedicated volunteers with opportunities to serve the elephants on a few days of the year by working at the Sanctuary (but not interacting with the elephants). As one of the new volunteers I understand that the elephants (or the "Girls" as they are called) will not be on display because those days are over for them. Their only responsibility is for themselves--to live with others of their kind, wander the hills and valleys and water features to their hearts' content. The staff keep track of them, bring them hay and snacks and toys and keep their barns clean and fresh. Just as important is that the staff treats the elephants with the deepest respect. They know the mostly sad life stories of the Girls and celebrate their new lives of freedom from chains and cages at every opportunity.

I believe that The Elephant Sanctuary is a most worthy charity. Anyone wishing to donate or volunteer can be assured that their donations will find their way directly to those most deserving of them--the Girls and everything that they need to enjoy a peaceful, safe retirement.

1 Rachael14

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am a volunteer for this non profit and have been a huge admirer of Carol Buckley for some time now. Everyone that works at this sanctuary has their full heart and commitment. They truly care about the elephants and getting them as comfortable and as close to their natural life as possible. Such a magical place, and they are forever expanding their knowledge in ways that can help the elephants here and even elephants all over the world that are in need.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

The elephant sanctuary of Tennessee is a true sanctuary! The elephants have 2700 acres of space. Free will barns and freedom to choose what they do and where they are 24/7. No human contact aside from the caregivers. No bull hooks! No punishment! They are able to form new herds and friendships. It is literally heaven on earth for elephants!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I discovered this charity many years ago after reading an article about them. I visited their website and was completely hooked! After several years of keeping up to date and becoming more and more informed about the plight of captive elephants and the opportunity The Elephant Sanctuary offers to retired pachyderms, I offered to use my expertise as a public speaker to spread the word about TES. For the last few years, I have spent numerous hours speaking to groups all over Massachusetts, sharing my knowledge of The Elephant Sanctuary's mission. More recently, I became an official Ele-Ambassador for the non-profit. One of the things that impressed me early-on about TES is that when I offered to speak on their behalf, I told them that I would not do it as part of a fundraising campaign. My goal was only to educate the publice. They were perfectly fine with that, which says a lot about an organization that depends on donations to survive. Another impressive thing about TES is that they do not allow visitors to their actual Sanctuary site, as they believe that the elephants in their Sanctuary have done their time being on display and should be allowed to live out their lives in peace. Without a doubt, allowing the public to visit the habitat would certainly give them the opportunity to collect additional donations, but they have always stayed true to their mission, which is certainly something that should be lauded.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been teaching my Kindergarten students about The Elephant Sanctuary for 14 years. When I first saw an interview on TV I was hooked. It was then I understood what circus and zoo elephants have to endure to show us a few minutes of tricks and live a life of confinement. I'm sure not one of these Majestic mammals would choose this life of incarceration instead of living with their family in the wild. We blew it and now The Elephant Sanctuary is giving them a life as close to the wild as possible. My students love to hear the stories of the girls, their favorite foods and who their best friend is but it saddens us to hear how tiny they were when many were taken from their Mothers. I show my students many of the playful You Tube videos but our favorite time is watching the live Webcam during our center time! These 5 year olds have more empathy than some adults. They realize it's not about us, it's about how the elephants feel. It comes down to our #1 class rule "Be kind to others on the inside and outside". This includes animals. The Sanctuary is not open to the public so the girls can truly live as an elephant should. I donate each month because it is my hope that in my lifetime we will no longer have any elephants in zoos or circuses. I tell anyone I can about TES and I hear so often "I just didn't know". We need to treat these great emotional creatures to a better life, a sanctuary life.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Elephant Sanctuary is a very worthwhile charity. Not only do they have a solid Charity Navigator review, their cause is unique, being one of only two elephant sanctuaries in North America. My donations are always promptly acknowledged. Their ancillary programs help educate the public on important conservation matters. TES oversees a volunteer ambassador program, distance learning for schoolchildren, all in addition to the primary mission of elephant caretaking. If you watch their webcams it's easy to see success in that most important area. The "girls" are obviously happy as they splash around in the ponds, explore the 2700 acre habitat, and lay down to sleep while outside (something an e lephant only does when she feels safe and secure. It's a wonderful organization!

1

Donor

Rating: 5

What can I say about this fabulous organization?!? The work they do is amazing! I love to log on and watch what the girls )as I think of them) are doing today. I have a very shy 9 year old and talking to people about the Elephant Sanctuary has really helped her come out of her shell. We did distance learning program it was fabulous!! The kids learned all about elephants and the Elephant Sanctuary. It brings tears to my eyes to watch them be truly elephants as nature intended!!!!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is the largest, most well thought out refuge in the country for our largest land mammal. Those fortunate enough to receive sanctuary here live out their days in the freedom, dignity, and society they deserve.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

These people are doing amazing things in Tennessee! The care and compassion that is shown to these animals is truly unbelievable. It warms my heart to know what a difference is being made in these majestic animals lives by these extraordinary people!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have volunteered with this organization for some time and have seen in person the dedication and care given to these elephants, the educational outreach and the support that is provided to the volunteers. The entire Sanctuary is funded through donations.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A beautiful place in South Central Tennessee where elephants can roam. It's a great sanctuary where the girls (the elephants) get the best of everything, food, medical care and enrichment. When I have volunteered there, the staff wad welcoming and knowledgeable. The girls health and safety is always the number one priority.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

My friend Rosanne Sietins helps raise awareness and funding for this organization which is located here in Tennessee. They take in old and sick elephants at the end of their days in the circus or zoos and give them a habitat where they can roam for miles as elephants do in the wild. They also educate the public about keeping these huge sensitive beasts contained in small areas, and forcing them to perform with whips and chains in the circus is animal cruelty. Elephants care deeply about each other and people who kindly take care of them and may revolt when mistreated. The sanctuary provides a safe place for them to live out their days and treats their injuries and diseases.

3 Debra58

Donor

Rating: 5

Fabulous place for retired elephants to live. No detail is forgotten to ensure their lives are spent happy and healthy! TES is a forerunner in how a sanctuary should be.

I am proud to endorse this nonprofit as one of the very best sanctuaries in the US.

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5

Donor

Rating: 5

I discovered The Elephant Sanctuary after viewing the documentary 'Urban Elephant.' The story of Shirley and her long lost friend, Jenny. After further investigation I joined the supportive group, The Elefans, and the rest is history! This is one of two places in the US that offers true sanctuary for captive elephants. The elephants are free to roam, eat, sleep wherever and whenever they wish. They are not used for breeding or entertainment and there are no visitors allowed. This is a good thing as all of these elephants are the product of the cruelty of the circus and substandard zoos. I adore the Ele Cam which gives glimpses of these majestic beings living as they should: free of expectations of humans. I encourage everyone to give what they can as this place always needs the support.

1 SusanBC

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been a supporter of the Elephant Sanctuary in TN since 2003, with the retirement of a local elephant named Tina. Until that moment in time, I had no idea of the cruelties associated with animals in captivity, in this instance, elephants. I have learned so much about these majestic animals and while it is sad that they can never be back in the wild, having the Sanctuary give them space to roam and the ability to be an elephant again without having to perform for people or 'earn their keep' has made such an impact in their lives. Very few of these dear souls arrive in perfect health, but with time and a lot of tlc, good food, fresh air and lots of room to stretch their legs, they are able to enjoy their lives to the fullest for the rest of their days. Please take the time to browse through their website, visit the cam page and also their many youtube moments!

Previous Stories
1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I learned of this wonderful organization in 2003, with the long awaited retirement from a local zoo, of a lone Asian elephant named Tina. I was never comfortable at a zoo or circus in my younger days, but did not have a clue what kind of lives elephants faced everyday in captivity. Internet was new to us then and what a world it opened up. These elephants truly do live the life they were meant to live, short of being free, with acre upon acre of open space, spring fed ponds, natural vegetation and top quality care both in caregivers and vet staff . The Sanctuary does have a volunteer program which fills up pretty quickly and what I like is that there is no access to the public for 'viewing'. The elephants no longer have to perform for anyone or do silly tricks. Being a long time 'fan', I have shared joy in each new arrival, each new milestone, as well a shed a lot of tears for those that have passed away. Even in the sadness, I have been thankful that these gentle souls have lived the end of their lives in peace and in love in their own little Heaven on earth. Thank you 'TES' for all you have done and all you will continue to do for the Elephants.