Providing home, herd, rest, refuge, and individualized care for life.

Our Mission

The Elephant Sanctuary exists to...

  • provide captive 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
  • educate the public of the complex needs of elephants in captivity and the crisis facing elephants in the wild
African Elephant Walking at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee

Our Work

Since 1995, The Sanctuary has provided refuge for 33 elephants who are retired from performance and exhibition. There are currently 12 elephant residents with room for more. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee began on 110 acres and has grown to three separate and protected, natural habitats, spanning over more than 3,060 acres.

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee provides elephants retired from entertainment and exhibition with herd, home, and individualized veterinary and husbandry care for life. Elephants that have lived their lives in captivity have an opportunity at The Sanctuary to live in an expansive habitat that allows for a range of natural behaviors.

Many of the elephants suffer long-term health and complex behavioral issues common to elephants that have spent their lives in captivity, such as tuberculosis, osteomyelitis, obesity, arthritis, and aggression. Because elephants have complex physical and social needs, successful outcomes are measured not only by the elephant’s physical health, but also their social, behavioral and psychological well-being.

As a true sanctuary, The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is closed to the public. The best way to see the elephants is by our live-streaming EleCams, which can be viewed here at elephants.com.

Education is a very important part of The Sanctuary’s mission. Through Distance Learning, The Sanctuary teaches hundreds of school and community groups around the world a respect for wildlife while learning about the crisis facing Asian and African elephants in captivity and in the wild.

In the wild, elephants are migratory, walking miles each day. They form intricate family structures and grieve for their dead in a more-than-instinctive way. They show humor and express compassion. The Elephant Sanctuary’s mission is to give elephants the freedom of choice they deserve.

The Sanctuary is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

Our Values

  • 1 Elephants are intelligent creatures with complex physical and social needs.
  • 2 Elephants in Sanctuary deserve nothing less than individualized, whole-elephant care for life.
  • 3 “Sanctuary” means providing a safe haven and natural habitat, dedicated solely to elephant wellbeing.
  • 4 Protected contact and positive reinforcement are cornerstones for working humanely, effectively, and safely with captive elephants.
  • 5 Animal welfare standards include nutrition, environment, health, behavior, and mental state.
  • 6 People can and must make a difference in protecting wild elephants so that the species can survive for generations to come.
  • 7 Collaboration and sharing of best practices leads to better management, treatment and care for elephants everywhere.
  • 8 Staff thrive on teamwork, continuous learning, and shared commitment to the wellbeing of the elephants entrusted to The Sanctuary’s care.
  • 9 Honesty, integrity, and open communication with partners and key stakeholders are foundational to The Sanctuary’s relationship and business practices.
  • 10 A healthy ecosystem is a diverse one. Likewise, a healthy workplace thrives on diversity, inclusivity, and equality.
  • 11 Sustainable decisions, processes, and purchasing demonstrate advocacy for the planet we share with the elephants entrusted to our care.
  • 12 Continuous learning about the biology and behavior of elephants supports our best practices.
Asian Elephant Grazing on Grass at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee
African Elephant Eating Hay at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee
Asian Elephant Walking Through The Forest at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to commonly raised questions about The Sanctuary, The Elephant Discovery Center, and The Sanctuary's Shop.



We use a system of solar-powered cameras to locate and monitor the elephants and to offer you, our friends and supporters, frequent glimpses of the elephants we are so fortunate to have in our care.

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