Building Trust: Full-Time Professional Care in a Protected Contact Setting

Caregivers work with Sukari at a Protected Contact training wall in the habitat

The Sanctuary employs full-time, professional Veterinary and Husbandry staff who care for the elephants in a Protected Contact system, which means Caregivers and elephants do not share the same physical space.

Training walls offer protection for both the Caregiver and the elephant and also help to build trust. At The Sanctuary, elephants actively participate in their own health care through a system of positive reinforcement and food rewards. Caregivers use soft bamboo target poles and vocal cues to ask the elephants to present their feet, ears, tusks and bodies for inspection and care. This freedom of choice, without fear of punishment, is vital to the elephants’ well-being.

Thermal Imaging Diagnostic Capabilities

Veterinary Technicians capturing a thermal image of Sukari's ear


Thermal imaging is a completely non-invasive diagnostic tool that senses heat and maps blood flow. Thermal imaging is especially helpful in diagnosing inflammation and localized infection and can be used to monitor the healing process. At The Sanctuary, Veterinarians take thermal images to track the healing of superficial abrasions as well as monitor chronic arthritis and evaluate changes in blood flow. In the summer, thermal images of the elephants show the amazing effects of the mud the elephants throw on their backs to cool themselves.

The Elephant Health Care Center rendering

Help Us Build The Elephant Health Care Center

Thermal image of an elephants' ear

To best serve our resident elephants and those to come, The Sanctuary is preparing to break ground on a modern Elephant Health Care Center.

This centrally located Center will expand in-house diagnostics and provide opportunities to share what we are learning about geriatric elephant care with others.

The total cost for The Elephant Healthcare Center is $1,075,000, which includes the Veterinary Services offices and lab, a two-stall barn with a solar array, and two acres of habitat fencing with a training wall.

The Board of The Elephant Sanctuary has set aside the use of $620,000 from operational reserves to help fund this Center. We are asking our generous supporters to help us raise the remaining $455,000 through this campaign.


An anonymous donor has generously offered $150,000 in matching funds to help us reach our goal of $455,000 by September 2018. We hope you will partner with us to create this modern facility specifically designed to meet the needs of aging captive elephants.

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