Elephant Rescue: U.S. Sanctuaries

elephant rescue

Love elephants? Bart does too. His mom told me that it makes Bart sad to know that there are elephants caged in zoos and circuses. This year, Elephant Appreciation Day is September 22; this is a great time to show Bart (and you) about elephant rescue and sanctuaries in the U.S. and thank them for their efforts to provide elephants a safe, natural place to live.


The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is the largest natural habitat for elephants in the entire United States. They began in 1995 and provide individualized care for captive African and Asian female elephants. Although the elephant habitat is not open to the public, the sanctuary does offer onsite and distance learning programs. They also have some fun cameras set up so you can see the elephants in action without disturbing their daily lives.

The sanctuary typically only provides housing for female elephants. This isn’t because they don’t like the boys, though! In the wild, Asian elephants separate themselves into gender based groups. The females in each herd are related and work together to rear the offspring. Male elephants are forced to leave the herd between six to 10 years of age and will join up with different groups of males until he settles on one when he reaches adulthood. By the ripe old age of 30, male elephants seem to prefer solitude.


Riddle’s Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. In 1990, Scott and Heidi Riddle began this sanctuary on 330 acres. It’s become an internationally recognized elephant sanctuary and accepts elephants of every species, gender, age and disposition.

Unlike the sanctuary in Tennessee, Riddle’s does offer the public an opportunity to interact with the elephants in their care. Under the careful instruction and guidance of Riddle’s trained handlers, guests can spend a weekend bathing, feeding and caring for the elephants based upon the weather and the animals’ needs. This experience is offered as part of the sanctuary’s mission to educate others about elephants and in doing so prevent their extinction.


The National Elephant Center (TNEC) has a slightly different approach. The 225-acre facility is designed to support accredited zoos. They house elephants who need temporary care due to zoo remodeling or other habitat changes. They also provide long-term housing for elephants who are no longer thriving in the zoo environment or whose private owners can no longer care for them.

TNEC is equipped to support male elephants, herds, and social groupings for both Asian and African elephants. It is not open to the public, but does offer presentations and other outreach efforts to increase understanding and awareness about elephants and their welfare.

Bart feels better! How about you?

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Sarah Woodard is a freelance writer based in Southern New Hampshire. She enjoys bringing stories, issues and topics to life with words and pictures. In addition to writing, Sarah is a beekeeper, Reiki Master Teacher and black belt in Muay Thai Kickboxing. In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time with her boyfriend and playing with their four cats.

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