The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee

Aerial View of SanctuaryThe 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.

Phase I Barn

200-acre steel pipe and cable elephant corral
and a 222-acre perimeter "people" fence

Quarantine Barn

Inside the Quarantine Barn

This 1840–acre parcel of wilderness was owned
by International Paper company prior to
becoming Elephant Country.

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.
Phase II was completed December 1999, adding a 6-stall, 9000 square foot, state-of-the-art elephant barn to the facility.

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.
This 1840-acres parcel of land was purchased from International Paper Company in order to provide more space for our elephants. Prior to the sale nearly half of the land was clear cut. Our plan is to heal the land from the ravages of this activity by creating seeded pastures in some areas and allowing other sections to regenerate the indigenous forest.

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.

See slide show detailing construction.


View our 20-year timeline.

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.