The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee

African Ele-Diary 2011

December 5, 2011

A letter from Flora's primary Caregiver, Angela...

As most people know by now, the documentary about Flora and her journey to sanctuary recently aired on the OWN network. From what I have heard, there are conflicting viewpoints on what the documentary was really about after all was said and done, but hopefully this can be set aside to allow for the fact that at least it touched on the plight of elephants captured and brought into captivity. Even if it isn't exactly what people expected or wanted (things rarely are), it can still allow Flora to be an ambassador to her species - if we let it.

One Lucky Elephant Star Flourishes at Sanctuary in Tennessee


There are those who come away from the program feeling they have learned about something they care about and want to support. There are those who come away with the opinion that David should be allowed to visit, or at least view, Flora. There are still more who just have more questions than they did before they saw it. That's okay. I don't know if there is one absolute answer that fits this dilemma, but I do think the decisions that were set in place were coming from a place of concern for everyone...both human and elephant.

Those who cared for Flora here after David was good enough to let her come saw the reality of her capabilities and strength. If everyone could see the twisted, crumpled pieces of steel that she took out her frustrations on (shaped in a manner that wasn't supposed to be "possible" according to the steel companies), perhaps it would give them a better understanding of the safety issues involved in the final decision regarding visitation. The thought of, "maybe it's been long enough that she wouldn't do anything like that again" is understandable, but when you weigh the risk of injury and safety, and the possible worst case scenarios, one must consider both the best and worst outcome to be fair.

Flora is doing very well, and continues to evolve in her relationships with both Tange and her caregivers. She has more frequent playful moments than in the past, but still adheres to her more serious personality. She is highly intelligent, a stunning example of her species, and is a pleasure to be around. We did a recent measurement and she stands over 9 feet tall at the shoulder-quite a big girl. Tange follows with an impressive height of between 8 and 9 feet at the shoulder.

As a caregiver, whenever Flora "gives" you something, it is a huge honor. When it's her choice to cooperate and offer behaviors during training, or even when she elicits the very soft rumbles of greeting when you approach, it warms you a bit and makes you smile. Seeing these amazing animals move through their day without fear or strict, structured routines is a genuine pleasure. It's nice to know sometimes we actually have to go out and find them doing what they do, rather than having them programmed to do certain things or be at specific places at specific times. Flora is definitely one who enjoys these freedoms, often being found at the Pipeline Pine Forest (one of her favorite hangouts) ….

Watching her out in the woods, working over a tree, gives you an appreciation of just how strong she is. It lies in stark contrast to the soft moments where she lays her trunk gently along a top rail, moving only the tip to smell and investigate what you're doing. Or the times she offers you the tiniest twig or stone, laying it softly on top of a waterer or fence post, then backing away as if to allow you to take it.

The African demeanor can, however, be a bit jarring at times, such as when they come into the barn at the end of the day. One usually comes in just before the other, and if it's Flora who is first, she will often move quickly to the center divider and tusk the bars as Tange playfully moves past her on the other side. This gives the gates a nice big rattle/bang, and can make you jump a little even when you're used to it. The big head shake/ear flaps just before they leave the barn is also a bit funny...sort of like an, "Okay, here I come" move as their gates are opening to let them out into the habitat. Clouds of red-brown dust hanging in the air are the only evidence of elephants once they pop through the doors on their way out to morning hay.

Their LOUD "dinosaur" rumbles are so powerful, you can feel them move through you if you're standing near enough, and that's outside the barn. Inside the barn, the rumbles can be felt in every corner, and they set the pigeons roosting above to flight. Sometimes I wish I had ear plugs when their enthusiasm elevates the volume of their trumpets, rumbles and roars to a level that makes your hair nearly stand up.

I hope everyone who sees the film can at least enjoy getting to know Flora a bit better, then follow her on her daily adventures through the ele-cam and elenotes. From a first-hand perspective, I feel very lucky to share her life and spend time with her every day. She is a wonderful spirit, and for as long as I'm with her, I will acknowledge that every single day.



Watch Slide Show!

Flora – Finding Sanctuary in Tennessee

Doing What's Best for Flora



May 27, 2011

Recently, Scott was doing a little bulldozer work to clear some 4-wheeler trails in North Woods Valley. Of course, anytime something new and exciting happens in their habitat, it is cause for celebration for Flora and Tange. As you will see in this video, they both got very playful and vocal!


April 28, 2011

For several years, the African elephants at the Sanctuary have been taking advantage of the natural browse available to them in their habitat. As you will see in this video, they have become quite skilled using their tusks to strip the tasty bark from trees.


March 22, 2011

Tange and Flora usher in the second day of spring with a day at the spa!

Watch Slide Show!

February 18, 2011

Tomorrow marks the 7th anniversary of Tange and Zula's arrival from Cheehaw Wild Animal Park in Albany, GA--and also the day we officially opened our African habitat! Beautiful Zula, your spirit is still with us.