Many of the resident elephants have come here as the result of collaboration between the elephant’s owners and The Sanctuary, though each story is remarkable and unique. The decision to transfer an elephant to a sanctuary is solely that of the elephant’s owner or in some cases, the legal system, such as when the owner fails to comply with the Animal Welfare Act. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee strives to be a resource for any elephant in need of refuge and lifetime care, and we welcome legal decision-makers seeking placement options for any elephant to visit our facilities. To learn more about each elephant resident and how they came to The Sanctuary, please visit elephants.com/elephants.
The Elephant Sanctuary is one of two sanctuaries for elephants in North America accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and the only sanctuary for elephants in North America accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
The Elephant Sanctuary does not condone free contact management or dominance training of elephants and takes a stand against the use of the ankus (bullhook). The Elephant Sanctuary does not support the use of elephants in entertainment, as elephants are wild animals with complex physical and social needs not supported by the training, performing, confinement and travel demanded of elephants in entertainment.
Many people in the animal care and conservation field have degrees in zoology, biology, wildlife conservation, and wildlife management. The Sanctuary's Care Staff recommends getting volunteer and internship experience during college. Often, local wildlife rescue organizations are a great place to start. These experiences not only help you decide your specific areas of interest but can also help new graduates get jobs in their desired area of work. Internships are often advertised on animal organization websites such as Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) and Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA). Many universities also offer study abroad programs, which allow students to receive college credit while studying in range countries.
The climate of Middle Tennessee is mild for most of the year, but no matter the weather, the elephants at The Sanctuary all have free-choice year round access to expansive habitats and heated barns. In the habitat, seasonal variations offer a range of vegetation for foraging and enrichment.
The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, founded in 1995, is the nation’s largest natural-habitat refuge developed specifically for African and Asian elephants. Accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), The Sanctuary operates on 3,060 acres in Hohenwald, TN – 85 miles southwest of Nashville.
The Sanctuary exists for two reasons:
The Elephant Sanctuary is a true sanctuary; thus, the elephants' habitats are closed to the public.
You can observe the elephants anytime you like from the comfort of your own home via our live-streaming EleCams. You are also invited to visit The Elephant Discovery Center in downtown Hohenwald, TN, which features interactive multi-media exhibits, a theater, an Outdoor Classroom, and regularly scheduled programming about elephants, the purpose of The Sanctuary, and conservation efforts in the wild. Visit www.elephants.com/discovery-center to learn more.
The Sanctuary is equipped to house both female and male elephant residents!
The Elephant Sanctuary was originally founded to provide safe refuge for female Asian elephants, because female Asian elephants were identified as having the greatest need and were most often used in performance and entertainment at that time. The Sanctuary was eventually asked to provide for female African elephants, and in 2004, the first African elephants arrived.
In 2008, the United States Department of Agriculture confiscated Ned, an Asian male elephant, whose owner allegedly failed to comply with the Animal Welfare Act. Under the USDA’s authority, Ned was placed with The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. His stay was intended to be only temporary until he recovered and could make a cross-country move to a permanent facility. Ned was seriously underweight, and in the months that followed, his health did not improve. After only six months at The Sanctuary, Ned passed away.
With a rise in the number of male elephants being born in captivity, The Sanctuary pledged to build facilities that could house any elephant in need of care. Our first barn and habitat built specifically to accommodate either a female or male elephant was completed in 2021, and in January 2023, we welcomed our first permanent bull resident! We will continue to expand to accommodate additional bulls in the future.
The Sanctuary's Distance Learning program provides live webinars for classrooms all over the world using Education Team led conversation, photos, videos, and live-streaming footage from the elephants' habitats. Visit www.elephants.com/distance-learning to learn more.
You may also visit The Elephant Discovery Center in downtown Hohenwald, TN to learn about elephants, the purpose of The Sanctuary, and conservation efforts in the wild. Visit www.elephants.com/discovery-center for more info.
And of course, we encourage you to follow us on social media and sign up for our EleNews email updates at the bottom of this page for the latest happenings with the elephants at The Sanctuary!
Our exhibits are designed for the whole family (please see Adult Supervision policy). We encourage adults AND children to get excited to learn more about elephants!
No elephants are present at The Elephant Discovery Center. The elephants' habitats are closed to the public.
Certified service animals are permitted.
We ask that an adult accompany children under the age of 16 at all times, to ensure the best experience for all of our guests.
Photos and video for personal use may be taken inside The Elephant Discovery Center with available light. Tripods and professional lights may not be used. Publication or sale of photographs and videos is not allowed without the permission of The Elephant Sanctuary Staff.
We maintain a lost and found. If you have lost an item, you may check with our Staff to see if it has been returned. Unclaimed items are donated after 30 days.
The Elephant Discovery Center does not have food or drink available for purchase, and we ask that you enjoy any food and drink outside of the exhibit space. There is a water fountain available by the restrooms, and staff members are happy to make dining recommendations in the community!
Weekday mornings are our busiest time for school field trips and group visits. Afternoons and Saturdays are typically better suited to drop-in visitors. Crowds vary depending on holidays, school vacations, weather, etc. Please feel free to call ahead to plan your trip.
No — The Elephant Discovery Center is located in downtown Hohenwald. The Sanctuary grounds are not open to visitors, but you can always see what the elephants are up to via our live-streaming EleCams on our website!
The Discovery Center is KultureCity® Certified. KultureCity is the nation's leading nonprofit on sensory accessibility and acceptance for those with invisible disabilities and aims to provide individuals with sensory challenges with the same experiences and opportunities as others. The Elephant Sanctuary has partnered with KultureCity to enhance our ability to assist and accommodate all — by supplying our staff with annual training and offering additional support and resources to those who may face sensory processing needs.
The certification process helps to ensure Staff at The Discovery Center are trained by leading medical professionals on how to recognize those with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation. KultureCity Sensory Bags have been equipped with noise-canceling headphones (provided by Puro Sound Labs), fidget tools, verbal cue cards, and KCVIP lanyard, which will be available to all visitors in need. Signs have been placed around the museum which indicate where loud or unexpected noises may occur, and a “quiet zone” for those who may benefit from it.