A lot can happen in the lifetime of an elephant. Those in the wild grow up among an extended family herd of mothers, daughters, aunts, and cousins. They are led by a matriarch—the oldest and wisest female in the herd. Together, they travel many miles a day, across grasslands and savannahs. They create waterholes shared by other animal species. They play, they adapt, and they mourn. They are sentient beings with remarkable memories and social structures that mimic our own.
Elephants raised in captivity know a different life. Tange was brought to the United States and sold to a wild animal park after the culling of her family herd. Sissy lived three decades without the companionship of another elephant. While traveling between circus performances, Shirley survived a ship fire and an overturned transport trailer. After she was no longer deemed fit to perform in circus, Billie spent 13 years housed in a 20’ x 20’ stall outside of Chicago, IL.
And although it is very difficult, if not impossible, to replicate their wild habitats and meet their complex physical and social needs in captivity—The Sanctuary has given these elephants a second chance at home and herd. All have brought with them the physical and emotional scars of captivity—but at The Sanctuary, among wooded hills and vast pastureland, where freedom of choice is tantamount, and elephants live together with others of their kind—we have been honored to watch as remarkable social, psychological and physical strides are made.
We revel daily in the explorations, discoveries, and evolving bonds of the 11 elephants that call The Sanctuary home. To ensure the highest quality of care, our Veterinary, Husbandry, and Facilities departments work together to find solutions to meet the ongoing needs of each individual elephant. For Shirley, now 70 years old, lowered training walls allow her to present her feet for foot-care without straining her back or legs. For Tange, radiographs allow Care Staff to monitor changes in her foot pads and tusks and adjust care plans according to her needs as she ages.
While providing whole-elephant care in an enriching natural habitat setting is the primary focus of the Elephant Care Staff—our work extends far beyond The Sanctuary’s 2,700-acre facility. A critical part of The Sanctuary’s mission is to inspire and empower the next generation of conservation leaders so that elephants no longer live under constant threat of poaching, habitat loss, conflict, or capture. Through Distance Learning in 2018, The Sanctuary reached more than 11,000 students in 19 countries around the world!
Finally, we know that to create a world for elephants, we must be accountable, because without support from people like you, none of this important work would be possible. The Sanctuary’s accreditation by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, certification by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and recognition by reputable charity monitoring groups, demonstrates a commitment to exemplary animal care and welfare, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety. The Sanctuary constantly strives to be a model and raise the standard of care for elephants in captivity as we share best practices and continue to learn from our partners across the USA and around the world.
Providing for the 11 elephants in our care takes a tremendous amount of resources. We depend on supporters like you to help us carry out our work and mission on behalf of Flora, Sukari, Tange, Nosey, Shirley, Tarra, Sissy, Billie, Minnie, Ronnie and Debbie. Thank you from all of us at The Elephant Sanctuary.
Janice Zeitlin, CEO