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.
It was an outstanding experience. It was hard sweaty work, but so worth it. The staff was so sincere about their commitment to the elephants. They were also very helpful and informative. I learned so much. It was an uplifting and rewarding experience.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Knowing I was doing something to benefits those majestic animals
Great cause! There care for the welfare of elephants is inspiring. The elecams are a great way to share the experience
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.
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.
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.