The Elephant Sanctuary (Hohenwald)

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The Elephant Sanctuary
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 15
Number of species 2 species:
Elephas maximus
Loxodonta africana
Annual visitors not open to public
Memberships The Association of Sanctuaries

The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, founded in 1995, is a non-profit organization licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). As a member accredited by The Association of Sanctuaries (TAOS), the sanctuary follows guidelines stipulated by TAOS, one of which is that none of the elephants be bred.[1] Its founders are former CEO, Carol Buckley, and former Operations Director, Scott Blais. In 2010 the sanctuary was featured on the children's show FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman.

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 goal is to retire 100 elephants from zoos and circuses to the sanctuary.

Tarra, was the inspiration for the sanctuary. After 15 years working in the circus Tarra needed a place to retire with her own kind with lots of space.[citation needed]


In 1995 The Elephant Sanctuary was started on 100 acres (0.4 km2) with one elephant, Tarra.

An internship program was established to train elephant caregivers in 1996.

A 9,000-square-foot (800 m2) barn was added in 1999.

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) was purchased and the sanctuary expanded to 2,700 acres (11 km2) in 2003.

In 2004, the first two African elephants were accepted into the new African habitat.

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). In accordance with TWRA regulations and TAOS guidelines the quarantine area has a hot wire fence.

  • 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 remodelled to create a Quarantine Facility for sick elephants. The Quarantine Facility has a barn for TB exposed elephants and a completely separate area for TB positive elephants.
  • In 2005 the Elephant Health and Welfare Institute headed by Dr. Susan Mikota was established.
  • In January 2006 the new Asian elephant house was completed.[2]
  • 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.[3]
  • The Elephant Health and Welfare Institute (EHWI) is now a fully functioning veterinary medical facility.[3]
  • 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. The goal is to accommodate 100 elephants.

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[4] 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.

November 17, 2004, it became home to two Asian elephants named Lota and Misty who came from 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, Winkie, a female Asian elephant, knocked down and stepped on Joanna Burke, 36, Winkie's caregiver for 6 years, while Joanna was going to look at a sting to one of Winkie's eyes. Joanna was killed instantly. Winkie also injured director Scott Blais who was trying to intervene. Winkie had a reputation as a dangerous animal while she was living in a zoo but it was clear by her actions that Winkie was not acting out aggressively any more than trying to indicate she had pain from the sting and the subsequent treatment. On July 25, it was released that, as per Joanna's wishes, Winkie would not be euthanized. A statement released by the Sanctuary stated the following: "Joanna made it perfectly clear in word and deed that no harm should come to any elephant no matter their action. She shared the Sanctuary's philosophy that Winkie will not be punished for her actions but managed in a way that keeps another innocent caregiver out of harm's way." Burke was interred on the grounds of the Sanctuary on July 26, 2006, as per her wishes.

On July 25, 2006, the Sanctuary announced it will be adjusting its protocol with regard to any elephants who are affected with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Sanctuary protocols are a set of standards of elephant care and management the Elephant Sanctuary staff follow when dealing with their elephants. Currently, two of the elephants at the Sanctuary, Winkie and Flora, have been diagnosed with PTSD. "In respect of their condition, caregivers will adjust how they physically interact with the elephants".[5]

On October 17, 2006, Jenny died from an undetermined illness. She was 34.[6]

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

A long campaign to have Mona, the sole elephant at the Birmingham Zoo in Birmingham, Alabama moved to the Elephant Sanctuary ended when she was euthanized at the zoo on June 21, 2007.

On March 11, 2008, Delhi died at age 62 (+).[7]

Queenie died on March 29, 2008, 18 days after her friend, Delhi. Both were formerly owned by the Hawthorn Corporation.[8]

Lucy aka Skanik of the Edmonton Valley Zoo, born circa 1975, has a standing invitation to retire to the sanctuary because she suffers from a respiratory infection, chronic foot infections and arthritis.[3]

Non-invasive research[edit]

Elephant conservation projects[edit]


  1. ^ "Care Guidelines for Captive Elephants". TAOS - The Association of Sanctuaries. 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-17. [dead link]
  2. ^ Staff writers (Spring 2006). "The New Asian Elephant House: Our Members Made It Happen". Trunklines (The Elephant Sanctuary): p. 12. Retrieved 2008-08-17. 
  3. ^ a b c Staff writers (Spring 2008). "Billie's Day". Trunklines (The Elephant Sanctuary): pp. 1, 3–6. Retrieved 2008-08-17. 
  4. ^ "USDA Seizes the Moment, Orders Hawthorn to Give Up 16 Elephants". The Humane Society of the United States. 2004. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  5. ^ "Media Corrections". Newsroom. The Elephant Sanctuary. 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-17. 
  6. ^ "Jenny Passes". What's New. The Elephant Sanctuary. 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-17. [dead link]
  7. ^ "In Memory of Delhi". The Elephant Sanctuary. 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-07-30. Retrieved 2008-08-17. 
  8. ^ "Queenie's Gift". The Elephant Sanctuary. 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-17. [dead link]

External links[edit]