Be A Better Keystone Species This Earth Day

Earth Day is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world with more than 1 billion people in 192 countries participating. Environmental degradation, habitat loss, and climate change are all threats facing wild animal populations worldwide. Sustaining the global environment for future generations of elephants, humans, and all the earth’s animals is inherent in The Sanctuary’s mission.

Elephants are called a “keystone species” because they so strongly influence their environment.

African forest elephants use their long tusks to dig through dry ground until they reach water. The watering holes are critical for the survival of many other species. And in the jungles of Asia, elephants help bring sunlight to the forest floor by consuming foliage and creating gaps in the plant growth. Elephants’ eating habits make sunny clearings for other species to inhabit and create greater plant diversity.

Just like elephants, human beings are also keystone species. In fact, humans are the ultimate ecosystem engineers. That leaves us with a great responsibility to the planet.

At The Sanctuary, not only do we advocate environmental sustainability, we practice it in our everyday operation.

Each of The Sanctuary’s three elephant barns utilizes a multi-thousand-gallon rain water catchment system. The barns are heated by the collected water through radiant flooring. Additionally, a 36KW solar array at the Asia barn offsets annual Asia Barn energy usage by 100 percent.

The Sanctuary completed construction on an off-the-grid warming hut in 2015. Using solar power to maintain an inside temperature of 50–60 degrees, the design offers a warm shelter out in the habitat for the elephants during cooler months.

Additionally, The Sanctuary utilizes composted manure and food scraps for planting fruit trees, gardens and amending soil in pastures and after construction projects.

At The Sanctuary’s public welcome center, The Elephant Discovery Center, a 38KW solar array offsets 75% of the building's annual electric use. The Elephant Discovery Center's original two buildings were saved from demolition and remodeled following (LEED) standards. The roofs are painted white to be more heat resistant. The lumber used in the renovation was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. An open-loop geothermal system helps regulate the temperature. A rainwater cistern provides irrigation for the over 40 species of trees, grasses, and shrubs...right in the middle of downtown Hohenwald.


Small changes to your daily habitats can make a huge difference for the environment!

Here are a few ideas for you to get started on this Earth Day.

1. Cut the catalogs. More than 100 million trees are cut down every year to produce junk mail. Deforestation contributes to both habitat-loss for wildlife and global climate change. Visit to stop receiving pre-approved credit card offers and sign up on to reduce the number of unsolicited catalogs sent to you.

2. Be plastic conscious. When you dine out, ask for your water without a straw. When you grocery shop, take your own reusable totes and produce bags—and buy in bulk while you’re at it to reduce consumption of plastic packaging. Stay hydrated with a stainless steel water bottle instead of buying single-use plastic ones (FYI they require more water to produce as they are able to hold).

3. Switch out your light bulbs. If every American household replaced one regular lightbulb with a compact fluorescent lightbulb it would be equivalent to removing one million cars from the road.

4. Refuel with a reusable coffee mug—and buy shade-grown coffee! The Sanctuary even has our own blend by Bongo Java, available HERE. To know you’re buying eco-friendly coffee, look for the Rainforest Alliance seal. 

5. Choose Used. You can save money and the environment by buying used (clothing, books, household appliances, furniture, you name it). Leave the linear economy behind and join the circular economy—you’ll feel great about all the society-wide benefits.


And don't forget to join us this Saturday, April 21 for an Earth Day Celebration at The Elephant Discovery Center in Downtown Hohenwald!

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