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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

83 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

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!!!!