The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee Announces New CEO


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    Hohenwald, Tenn. - (September 7, 2010) - Robert Atkinson, Head of Wildlife for the United Kingdom's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, was announced today as CEO of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, the nation's largest natural habitat refuge developed specifically for endangered Asian and African elephants.
    Atkinson, who will assume his duties in November 2010, has spent more than 11 years with the RSPCA, managing development of ethical and defendable policies affecting wild and captive animals. As Head of Wildlife, Atkinson develops the strategy for four wildlife centers and leads efforts to raise awareness about the impact of captivity on elephant welfare. Atkinson previously worked at Woburn Safari Park and carried out university-based research in the United Kingdom and Africa completing his Ph.D. in zoology at Oxford University.
     "We're extremely excited and honored to have a person of Rob's distinction and expertise joining us in the Sanctuary's mission to aid these magnificent creatures and bring awareness to the crisis facing captive elephants around the world," said Janice Zeitlin, Board Chair of The Elephant Sanctuary.  "Under Rob's leadership, we will continue providing a place of safety, dignity and peace to elephants in need and expand our efforts for education worldwide."
    Added Mark Watts, CEO of Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), "Rob has provided leadership and vision to the teams he has led over the last 11 years with the RSPCA in championing animal welfare. I can think of no one better placed to lead the Sanctuary, its staff and its elephants to a positive future."
    Atkinson is a published author and has served as scientific advisor to the Coalition of Captive Elephant Well-Being. He serves as a consultant on numerous animal welfare issues worldwide.

     "I am delighted to hear of Rob's appointment as CEO of The Elephant Sanctuary. As an ecologist who has spent many years studying wild animals, I'm confident Rob will want the elephants to be allowed to behave as much as possible like wild elephants," said Professor David Macdonald, CBE, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University's zoology department.
     "Elephants are complex, sensitive animals which deserve the best care, and for captive elephants in need, that place is The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee," said Atkinson. "For the past 15 years, it has been a true sanctuary of healing and refuge. I look forward to all the new challenges and opportunities to help more captive elephants reconnect to the natural world in which they were born to live and exist."
    As for the past 15 years, co-founder Scott Blais will continue to provide leadership for the elephant caregiving staff and management of facility operations.
    The Sanctuary is currently completing the second phase of construction to an education gallery located in downtown Hohenwald, Tenn. The gallery and the upcoming Elecam expansion will enhance the organization's distance learning project in support of the Sanctuary's mission to provide education about the crisis facing these intelligent, endangered creatures.
    The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee (, is a not-for-profit founded in 1995. Since then, it has provided sanctuary to 24 elephants and garnered support from over 75,000 individuals and organizations. The Sanctuary operates on 2,700 acres in Hohenwald, Tenn., about 85 miles southwest of Nashville, and has a staff of 24 with 15 current elephant residents.


Read more about Rob Atkinson in What's New