Frequently Asked Questions

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What is The Elephant Sanctuary?

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, founded in 1995, is the nation’s largest natural-habitat refuge developed specifically for the care of 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, Tennessee – 85 miles southwest of Nashville.

    The Sanctuary exists for two reasons:

    • Provide elephants with individualized care, the companionship of a herd, and the opportunity to live out their lives in a safe haven dedicated to their well-being
    • Raise public awareness of the complex needs of elephants, and the crisis facing elephants in the wild
    How do elephants come to The Elephant Sanctuary?

    Many of the resident elephants come here as the result of collaboration between the elephant’s owners and The Sanctuary. Each story is remarkable and unique. The decision to transfer an elephant to The Elephant Sanctuary is solely that of the elephant’s owner. In some cases, the legal system steps in when an owner fails to comply with the Animal Welfare Act and requests our help. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee strives to be a resource for any elephant in need of refuge and/or lifetime care, and we welcome decision-makers seeking placement options for any elephant to contact us at

    To learn more about each elephant resident and how they came to The Sanctuary, please visit

    How is The Elephant Sanctuary unique?

    The Elephant Sanctuary is the largest elephant preserve for both African and Asian elephants in North America and the only facility caring for elephants that is accredited by both the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) and by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Recognizing that elephants are wild animals with complex physical and social needs, there is no free contact management or dominance training. The Sanctuary joins both GFAS and AZA in taking a stand against the use of the ankus (bullhook) and encouraging elephant managers globally to forego dominance training methods.

    What makes Tennessee a good home for elephants?

    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.

    Can we see or visit the elephants?

    The elephants' habitats are closed to the public. You can observe the elephants anytime via our live-streaming EleCams. You are also invited to visit The Elephant Discovery Center in downtown Hohenwald, Tennessee, 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. There are no elephants on exhibition. Visit to learn more.

    Are the elephants at The Elephant Sanctuary male or female?

    The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee was founded in 1995 to address the needs of female Asian elephants and was expanded in 2004 to include female African elephants. However, in response to the needs of male elephants in human care, in 2021, The Sanctuary committed to constructing facilities capable of accommodating any elephant, and we are now home to both female and male elephants. For a list of current male and female elephant residents, visit

    Does The Elephant Sanctuary breed elephants?

    The Sanctuary provides home, herd, and care to older elephants and to elephants that may have special needs and/or require special care. There is no breeding of elephants at The Sanctuary.

    How can I learn more about The Elephant Sanctuary?

    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 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 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!

    Can I volunteer at The Sanctuary?

    The Elephant Sanctuary does have a limited number of volunteer opportunities onsite. Volunteers do not interact with the elephants, and we do not guarantee that volunteers will see elephants during their experience. To learn more visit: Please sign up for EleNews to be kept aware of any new volunteer opportunities.

    I'm interested in a career in elephant care or conservation. Where do I start?

    Many people in the animal care and conservation field have degrees in zoology, biology, wildlife conservation, and wildlife management. The Sanctuary team recommends volunteer and internship experience with animal facilities. Local wildlife rescue organizations are often a great place to start. Formal animal care experiences not only can 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.

    I am interested in having a representative of The Sanctuary speak at my upcoming event. How should I submit this request?

    Please submit requests for speakers in our Speaker Request form here. Completion of this form does not guarantee that a volunteer speaker will be provided, but someone from The Sanctuary will be in touch!

    Discovery Center

    Is The Elephant Discovery Center located on The Elephant Sanctuary grounds?

    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!

    Are there any elephants on display at The Elephant Discovery Center?

    No elephants are present at The Elephant Discovery Center. The elephants' habitats are closed to the public.

    Who is the best audience for The Elephant Discovery Center?

    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!

    What is the best time of day to visit?

    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.

    Can I drop my kids off (Adult Supervision policy)?

    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.

    Are there concessions available at The Elephant Discovery Center?

    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!

    Can we take pictures while we are there?

    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.

    What happens if I lost my glasses, cell phone, jacket, etc., when I was there?

    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.

    What does it mean to be KultureCity® Certified?

    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.

    Can I bring my dog?

    Certified service animals are permitted.

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