The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee


Every birthday at The Elephant Sanctuary is a special occasion, but Billie’s is getting some extra attention this year. Just recently, new information came to light clarifying that Billie is turning 51 this year—not 60 as previously thought. All the more reason to celebrate!

When Billie arrived at The Sanctuary in February of 2006, she came wearing a very visible reminder of her past as a performing elephant—a chain around her front left leg. These 28 links of chain became a symbol of the forced servitude that defines the life of many Asian elephants. 

After five years of healing and growth at The Sanctuary, Billie allowed her chain to finally be removed. However, this is just another step in her extraordinary journey from the wild Indian elephant calf to the Billie we know today. The Sanctuary needs you to help provide for the rest of Billie’s journey.

There are 28 links in the chain to the left. Each link represents a mere $400 dollars, totaling $11,200—the cost to provide Sanctuary for any one of our Girls for a month. As we reach each $400 milestone, you’ll see a link in the chain fade away, and a new “link” will appear below—a link to Billie’s life in Sanctuary. Please help us by donating to Billie’s care and make this chain disappear before her birthday party on Saturday, October 12th. We’ve already taken care of the first link for you.

  • Link by Link Billie's new life unfolds

    • Billie's chain is finally removed

    • Billie now spends a lot of time climbing up and down the hillside next to Q-Barn.

    • BillieBillie's Bio

      1962: Born in India

      1966: Brought to Southwick Zoo in Mendon, Mass.

      1972: Sold into the circus industry and trucked to Florida for training

      March 1972: Travels with Miller-Johnson Circus

      Fall 1972: Joins the Hawthorn Five elephant act and begins traveling with Hamid-Morton Circus

      1973-1993: Performs with the Hawthorn Five – Bombay, Tess, Delhi, Joyce and Billie – mostly with Hamid-Morton, which produced Shrine Circuses

      1993: After lashing out at trainers, Billie is declared dangerous by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and ordered taken off the road

      1993 – 2006: Lives in 20' by 20' stall in Hawthorn Corporation barn in Illinois

      Feb. 9, 2006: Becomes the 21st resident of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee

      Birth status: wild born

      Height: 8'
      Favorite Food: Bananas

      Billie (female) was born in India in 1962. Like so many of the elephants now retired at the Sanctuary, poor record keeping during her early years offers us little detail on her history. Like most Asian elephants who arrived in America during this era, Billie is believed to have been captured from the wild and separated from her family at a very young age, sold, and then shipped to the United States to spend her on display and giving performances.

      Records indicate somewhere around the age of ten, Billie was acquired by the Hawthorn Corporation, a company that trained and leased elephants to circuses. Billie traveled and performed with several other elephants and increasingly became more aggressive towards her trainers until she was retired from performing and sent to live permanently at the Hawthorn Corporation winter quarters. Ten years prior to Billie coming to the Sanctuary, she was reportedly so aggressive that she was managed with protected contact. As a result of the USDA's prosecution for violations of the Animal Welfare Act involving inadequate care and mistreatment of its elephants, nearly all members of the Hawthorn Corporation's elephant herd were sent to The Elephant Sanctuary.

      At 12:00 p.m., February 9, 2006 at the age of 44, Billie became the twenty-first resident of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee arriving with her friend Frieda. They were the last of eight circus elephants rescued from the Hawthorn Corporation.

      Today, Billie is best friends with her long-time herd members Liz and Frieda. In 2011, after nearly five years in sanctuary, Billie finally allowed Caregivers to remove her ankle chain—the last vestige of her life as a circus elephant. Billie is frequently seen swimming in the pond behind the barn, and never seems to tire of splashing in the water. It is obvious that her the freedom of The Sanctuary is having a healing effect on her.

      Although Billie arrived with a dangerous reputation, she has shown no signs of aggression since her arrival at the Sanctuary. Like so many other elephants with similar histories that arrived before her, underneath her tough exterior lies a very loving and gentle elephant that will continue to relax and blossom in the coming years at The Elephant Sanctuary.

      Billie, Liz, and Frieda
      Frieda, Liz and Billie — best friends

    • Liz, Billie & Freida arrive at the Sanctuary

    • Connect Billie's Dots:
      Click on the image below to download a PDF so you can Connect Billie's Dots!.

    • Billie had a Bamboo Party!

      Last week Billie, Liz, and Frieda returned to the Q-Barn to find that their Caregivers had redecorated…with bamboo.  Bamboo is a dietary staple for wild Asian elephants, and The Sanctuary’s elephants seem to be pretty fond of it too. It didn’t take long for the Barn to be returned to its normal décor.  Not surprisingly, the soon-to-be birthday girl, Billie, was right in the middle of the action. 

    • Billie loves when her Caregivers give her a drink from the hose. Look at those pretty teeth! 

    • Watch Billie have some fun with a new toy. 

    • Billie has some fun with some tree stumps. 

    • Part of Billie’s care is making sure that she gets regular pedicures to keep her feet healthy. Here, you see one caregiver filing down her nails and another caregiver giver her treats.

    • Billie and the popsicle ~ Take 2.

    • Billie Dines with deer.

    • Billie, Frieda and Liz's Reunion

    • Billie dunking and splashing.


Other Birthday events

Billie’s Birthday Fun 5.1K Run, Saturday, October 12th, Hohenwald, TN
5.1 kilometers for Billie’s 51 years! In partnership with the city of Hohenwald’s Oktober Heritage Festival, The Elephant Sanctuary is proud to invite you and your family to join us. All registration proceeds go towards Billie’s Journey: Link by Link fundraiser.

Billie’s Birthday Party, Saturday, October 12, Hohenwald, TN (following the Fun Run)
Join us at our Welcome Center for a day of celebration for Billie! We’ll have cake, hands-on activities, live streaming video of the Girls in their habitat, and a presentation from Billie’s Caregivers at 2:30. The Welcome Center is open from 11 am to 4 pm. *There will be no elephants at this event.