Sanctuary Benefits

The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, is a 22-year-old non-profit organization whose mission is to take in sick, needy, and elderly elephants. They are not open to the public, but they are fully licensed and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. They are certified by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

The Elephant Sanctuary provides round-the-clock care, access to a warm climate and 2,700 acres of hills, trees, meadows, and ponds. They have taken in 24 elephants, all of whom were  previously in zoos or circuses.

 Compare the two places: Buttonwood Park Zoo and The Elephant Sanctuary.

Where They Are Now:

Buttonwood Park Zoo


Where They Should Be:

The Elephant Sanctuary




20,000 s.f. outdoors (< half an acre) hard packed dirt, little grass, 4 trees and 4 rocks.

 2,000 acres in the Asian habitat with hardwood and pine forests, grassy fields, a 14-acre lake, ponds,and streams.
2,400 s.f. concrete barn built in 1986, oil heat furnace, dirt floor that can't be cleaned and retains waste, odors, disease.

9,000 s.f. barn built in 2005, radiant heater in each stall, built in hoist, concrete floor (cleaned daily)

Concrete water tank and concrete pool outdoors only; plastic troughs until 2 years ago, automatic wateres.

Automatic waterers outside and in.

Climate  Climate
Average coldest month: <27 F. Average coldest month: between 32 F - 64 F.
Average day temps >50 F: April - September. Average day temps >50 F: March - October.
Time outside access: 8 hours. 24 hour outdoor access except in severe weather.

Time in barn: 16 hours every day;

20-24 hours December - February.

Time in barn: The elephant decides how much time they spend in the barn.

2 1/2 feet of snow annually (55" in 2014). Frozen ground November through February.

Less than 1 foot of snow annually. No frozen ground.



Full-time veterinarian, 4th  new vet in past 5 years. Since January 2014, BPZoo was without a full-time vet for 18 months. Prior to 2008, did not have a full-time veterinarian.

One full-time on-site and one off-site veterinarian. Off-site vet has been with the Sanctuary for 20 years. 

4 elephant keepers, 1 manager. Keepers work elsewhere in the zoo with other animals.

13 full-time staff for 14 elephants. Caretakers do not work with other animals.

Staff on-site for 8 hours a day unless there are special events. On two occasions, staff stayed overnight for the elephants in the past 6 years.

2 staff live on-site.