The Elephant Sanctuary (Hohenwald)

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The Elephant Sanctuary In Tennessee
Date opened 1995
Location Hohenwald, Tennessee
 United States
Coordinates 35°35′38.72″N 87°35′6.24″W / 35.5940889°N 87.5850667°W / 35.5940889; -87.5850667Coordinates: 35°35′38.72″N 87°35′6.24″W / 35.5940889°N 87.5850667°W / 35.5940889; -87.5850667
Land area 1,100 hectares (2,700 acres)
Number of animals 12
Number of species 2 species:
Elephas maximus
Loxodonta africana
Annual visitors not open to public

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee in Hohenwald, Tennessee is a non-profit organization licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). Founded by Carol Buckley and Scott Blais in 1995, The Sanctuary has provided a home to 24 elephants, all retired from zoos and circuses. The Elephant Sanctuary provides these elephants with a natural habitat, individualized care for life, and the opportunity to live out their lives in a safe haven dedicated to their well being. The Sanctuary currently has 11 Asian elephants and 2 African elephants. The Elephant Habitats are not open to the public.

At over 2,700 acres (11 km2), the sanctuary consists of three separate and protected, natural habitat environments for Asian and African elephants; a 2,200-acre (9 km2) Asian facility, a 200-acre (0.81 km2) quarantine area and a 300-acre (1.2 km2) African habitat.

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.


In 1995, The Elephant Sanctuary was started on 100 acres (0.4 km2) with one elephant, Tarra. A 9,000-square-foot (800 m2) barn was added in 1999, and, in 2001, a 700-acre (2.8 km2) section of land with a 25-acre (100,000 m2) lake was acquired. Another 1,840 acres (7 km2) were purchased and the sanctuary expanded to 2,700 acres (11 km2) in 2003. The first two African elephants were accepted for the new African habitat in 2004. The existing herd of Asian elephants was relocated to a new 2,200 acres (9 km2) habitat to accommodate eight incoming elephants who needed to be quarantined in 2005. This new area includes a 22,000 sq ft (2,000 m2) barn and 20,000 sq ft (2,000 m2) hay barn which is able to hold up to 35,000 bales of hay.


The development of the Sanctuary was done in several stages. It was originally built in phases and then expanded whenever funding was available or the elephants needed more space or accommodation. Twenty miles of double fencing encloses The Elephant Sanctuary's 2,700 acres (11 km2).

  • It started in March 1995 with Phase I that included a heated barn, a 200 acres (0.8 km2) steel pipe and cable elephant corral, and a 222 acres (0.9 km2) perimeter "people" fence.
  • More land, buildings and lakes were added until November 2004, when Phase I and Phase II were combined and remodeled to create a Quarantine Facility for sick elephants. TES is currently[when?] treating 4 elephants that were exposed to tuberculosis while still in the entertainment industry.
  • In January 2006 the new Asian elephant house was completed.
  • In May 2007 Phase I of the Learning Center started with the purchase of two buildings in Downtown Hohenwald. These buildings have been designated as the Welcome Center.
  • More fencing has been added and a separate area has been created for Flora.

Population and history[edit]

Currently, the Elephant Sanctuary is home to eleven Asian elephants and two African elephants.

Tarra, The Sanctuary's Founding Elephant, arrived on March 3, 1995.

She was followed by Barbara on April 25, 1996. After being captured in the wild, Barbara spent nearly 30 years performing in circuses.

Jenny arrived on Sept 11th of the same year. Jenny was also retired from the circus industry.

Jenny was followed by Shirley on July 6, 1999. The story of Shirley and Jenny's reunion at The Sanctuary garnered widespread media attention. The two elephants had performed together in the circus many years before. Upon seeing one another in their new Sanctuary home, both elephants showed signs of excitement and affection towards one another. Jenny and Shirley would be very close for the rest of Jenny's life.

On September 29, 1999, Bunny arrived after being retired from a zoo in Indiana.

Sissy, having spent most of her life in various Texas zoos, arrived on January 26, 2000.

Winkie came on September 12 of the same year. She previously lived at a zoo in Wisconsin.

November 23, 2003, Delhi was the first elephant to use the quarantine facility. She was the first of 16 elephants to be confiscated by the USDA from Hawthorn Corporation, a company that trained and rented elephants to circuses, and which became widely known and fined for providing poor care for its elephants.

Tina, born at the Oregon Zoo in 1970, arrived at the sanctuary on August 11, 2003, from Vancouver. She died the following July.

Tange and Zula, The Sanctuary's first African elephants, arrived February 19, 2004.

Flora joined them March 3.

On November 17, 2004, Lota and Misty arrived. Like Delhi, they were both surrendered by the Hawthorn Corporation. Both Lota and Misty were diagnosed with a human strain of tuberculosis, a disease that was prevalent in the Hawthorn herd.

Lota died on February 9, 2005 of advanced tuberculosis.

On January 30, 2006, Minnie and Lottie were the first two of eight more Asian elephants to arrive at the Sanctuary from the Hawthorn Corporation. They were joined in subsequent days by Queenie, Liz, Debbie, Ronnie, Billie and Frieda. Unfortunately, Sue died December 30, 2005, before she reached the Sanctuary.

On July 21, 2006, Caregiver Joanna Burke was involved in an accident with one of the Asian elephants. She died as a result of her injuries. Per her family's wishes, she was laid to rest at The Sanctuary.

On October 17, 2006, Jenny died from an undetermined illness. She was 34.

Dulary, from the Philadelphia Zoo, arrived on May 1, 2007.

On March 11, 2008, Delhi died at age 62.

Queenie died on March 29, 2008, 18 days after her friend, Delhi. Both were formerly owned by the Hawthorn Corporation.

Ned, confiscated by the USDA from his owner in Florida, arrived on November 9, 2008. He was The Sanctuary's only male resident. His stay was intended to be temporary, Ned was at The Sanctuary to recuperate and gain strength.

Zula died on January 11, 2009. Her death was determined to be caused by circulatory collapse and probably arrhythmia.

On May 14, 2009 Bunny died.

Ned, having never regained his health, died the following day.

The Elephant Sanctuary's Welcome Center opened in August 2010.

Lottie passed away on October 10, 2010.

Dulary passed on December 23, 2013. She was followed by Frieda who passed on March 9, 2015.


The Elephant Sanctuary's Welcome Center, opened in 2010, hosts drop-in visitors every Thursday and Friday from 11 AM to 4 PM. The Welcome Center is also open on selected Saturdays of each month. Although the visitors cannot physically see the elephants (in keeping with Sanctuary philosophy), they can interact with staff and watch the elephants via live-streaming video. The Welcome Center also provides in person programs for school groups, civic/social groups, and the general public upon request.

The Sanctuary also has a web-based Distance Learning program that allows The Sanctuary to link up with classrooms and other audiences online. These programs are also available upon request.

External links[edit]