The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee

The Elephant Sanctuary FAQs

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee
Herd – Home – Rest – Refuge…Individualized Care for Life

What is The Elephant Sanctuary?

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, founded in 1995, is the nation’s largest natural-habitat refuge developed specifically for endangered elephants. It operates on 2,700 acres in Hohenwald, TN – 85 miles southwest of Nashville.  The Sanctuary exists for two reasons:
  • 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 wellbeing.
  • Raise public awareness of the complex needs of elephants in captivity, and the crisis facing elephants in the wild.

Can we come see the elephants?

The elephant habitats are not open to visitors.
  • The Elephant Sanctuary is a true sanctuary - a place of rest and refuge for elephants that have spent much of their lives on display or performing. The needs of the elephants have always been and will always be our top priority.
  • The Sanctuary Welcome Center in downtown Hohenwald, TN IS open to the public, and staff can arrange an opportunity for group/s to come there to learn more about the work of The Sanctuary.
  • You can observe the elephants anytime you like from the comfort of your own home by going to and using the EleCams.

Do you have any male elephants?

All Sanctuary elephants are female.
  • Male elephants in captivity have very different needs and requirements for their individualized care. To be able to provide this, The Sanctuary would have to make big changes in facilities and operations.
  • Female elephants in captivity in the United States far outnumber males.
  • Adult male and female elephants do not live in the same herd in the wild. Elephant herds are extended family units comprised of females and headed by a matriarch – an older female. When a male elephant reaches maturity, he leaves the herd.
  • The Sanctuary has provided for one male, Ned, but he was a very special exception who arrived as a temporary resident.
  • The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) Sanctuary in California does provide a facility for male elephants.

Have there ever been any baby elephants at The Sanctuary?

The Elephant Sanctuary is not a breeding facility.
  • The organization does not support increasing the number of captive elephants.
  • There is no assurance Elephants born in captivity will ever be released in the wild.

How does an elephant retire to The Sanctuary?

Many of the resident elephants have come here as the result of a collaboration between the elephant’s owners and The Sanctuary, and each is remarkable and unique.
  • The organization does not support increasing the number of captive elephants.
  • There is no assurance Elephants born in captivity will ever be released in the wild.

How do the elephants do in the Tennessee climate?

Tennessee is a good home for Sanctuary elephants.
  • The climate of Middle TN is mild for most of the year.
  • The elephants at The Sanctuary all have free-choice year round access to heated barns. They can come and go to and from the barns as they please.
  • The Sanctuary elephants spent their pre-Sanctuary lives in a variety of climates all over North America.

Does The Sanctuary work with other like-minded organizations?

The Elephant Sanctuary is part of a global community of organizations providing care for elephants and educating the public about these incredible creatures.
  • The organization is accredited by GFAS (Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries)
  • Our work is licensed and regulated by the USDA and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).
  • The Sanctuary has established collaborative relationships with The University of Georgia Veterinary College, the University of Tennessee Veterinary College, Vanderbilt University, and the Tennessee Department of Health.
  • The Sanctuary keeps in communication and shares resources with the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)
  • In 2013 and 2014 The Sanctuary supported and contributed to the work of Ecopolis and their efforts to provide Sanctuary for captive elephants in South America and to the Global Sanctuary for Elephants and their pilot program, Elephant Sanctuary Brazil and to their work to provide for Ramba in Chile.
  • In 2014 The Sanctuary contributed to Elephant Voices efforts to ban poaching in Africa.
  • In 2015 TES and PAWs are partnering with Animals Asia to provide workshops on Protected Contact (PC) management in China.
The Elephant Sanctuary is one of many organizations in the U.S. that has the responsibility of caring for elephants.  Elephant husbandry protocols are different for different facilities.
  • There are over 450 captive elephants living in North America, including the 12 that call The Elephant Sanctuary home.
  • The Sanctuary advocates a protected contact/positive reinforcement approach for working with elephants.
  • The Sanctuary does not condone free contact management or dominance training of elephants.
  • The Sanctuary hopes that as more is learned about the needs of an aging captive elephant population, more elephant owners will recognize the value of sanctuary for their animals.
The Elephant Sanctuary does not support the use of elephants in entertainment.

  • Elephants are wild animals with complex physical and social needs not supported by the training, performing, confinement and travel demanded of elephants in entertainment
  • The Sanctuary has learned from our own elephants that there can be great physical damage from both the training for and the performance of unnatural behaviors such as standing on their hind legs, riding a tricycle or standing on their head (Reference: Carol Bradley,Last Chain on Billie: How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top)

What can I do?

The Elephant Sanctuary needs your help.
  • All of the Sanctuary’s work is made possible by donations from supporters.
  • The EleAmbassador program has over 80 trained volunteers helping to spread awareness about TES and its mission, as well as the problems facing elephants in the wild.
  • The Elephant Sanctuary is recognized by charity watchdog groups: Sanctuary has been given a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator, is recognized as an accredited charity by BBB and a gold participant by Guidestar.

When will you get new elephants?

New Elephants in Sanctuary
  • Retirement of an elephant from exhibit and/or performing is the decision of the legal owner.
  • The Elephant Sanctuary stands ready to discuss the option of a sanctuary retirement and its benefits with owners and guardians of elephants living in captivity.
  • In anticipation of the needs of an aging elephant population, Sanctuary is preparing a new habitat and faculties to accept additional elephants.
  • The new habitat will offer safe space for care and observation for an elephant which may have special needs medically or behaviorally, and will ensure a smooth transition to her forever home at The Elephant Sanctuary. It also provides an opportunity to introduce an elephant to Protected Contact management and Sanctuary Staff without impacting any of our current residents.