The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, is the nation's largest natural-habitat refuge developed specifically to meet the needs of endangered elephants. It is a non-profit organization, licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and accredited by the Association of Sanctuaries, designed specifically for old, sick or needy elephants who have been retired from zoos and circuses. Utilizing more than 2700 acres, it provides three separate and protected, natural-habitat environments for Asian and African elephants. Our residents are not required to perform or entertain for the public; instead, they are encouraged to live like elephants.
Development of The Elephant Sanctuary's facilities began in March 1995. Phase I includes a heated barn, a 200-acre steel pipe and cable elephant corral, and a 222-acre perimeter "people" fence.
Land expansion began Oct 2001 with the acquisition of a parcel of wilderness known locally as the Highland Lake Land—a 700-acre parcel of land with a 25-acre lake.
July 2003 marked the final land acquisition which constitutes our expansion. This 1840–acre parcel of wilderness was owned by International Paper company prior to becoming Elephant Country.
Look closely and you will see the 25-acre spring fed lake in the upper left portion of the photos. As far as the eye can see—Asian Elephant Country.
The African Elephant Habitat was completed January 2004. This 300-acre facility with its award-winning elephant house is a showcase for innovative solar use.
Renovation of the Phase I barn was completed Nov 2004, creating a Quarantine Facility for sick elephants.
In September 2005, we completed construction of our new Asian elephant house.
View our 15-year timeline. Click on any of the events or photos, you will be taken to a page which describes that particular entry in more detail.
Funding for all of these projects came from public contributions, membership support and in-kind donations.
As a true sanctuary, The Elephant Sanctuary is not intended to provide entertainment. Patron-level donors are invited to tour the facility through our VIP Pledge Program, but the Sanctuary is closed to the general public. Education, however, represents a key component of the Sanctuary's ongoing mission.
Since its inception, the Sanctuary's outreach program has taught thousands of school children across the country a respect for wildlife while learning about the crisis facing Asian and African elephants, both in captivity and in the wild. Our video teleconferencing program uses high-tech digital phone lines and over a dozen digital video cameras to transmit live pictures and sound. This extensive network gives the public an unobtrusive look into the daily lives of the elephants, and allows us to continue to bring our educational mission to classrooms all over North America.
In the wild, elephants are migratory, walking 30 to 50 miles each day, and form intricate family structures. They grieve for their dead in a more-than-instinctive way. They show humor and express compassion for one another with intense interactions. The reality of their lives in captivity is that many are in chains up to 18 hours a day. They are enclosed in steel pens—often alone—broken and controlled by fear and intimidation. Our mission is to give them the freedom they deserve.