There's Elephants in Tennessee? Find out what happened to the circus
and zoo elephants you knew as a child.
By: John Shepler
Have you ever wondered where the elephants go? As a child
you saw perhaps dozens of elephants in zoos and circuses. But
where are they now? What becomes of elephants when they get too
old or sick to perform or greet the public? Or maybe the circus
goes out of business. Or the zoo shuts down or decides that the
elephant is just too expensive and too time consuming to care
for. What then? Gulp. Do they... Do they... Do they meet some
Sadly some do. Between the beatings, the confinement in cells
sized for human prisoners, chained to the floor, or victims of
biting cold in climates unsuited to animals of African and Asian
origin, some elephants do endure a wretched existence until they
can take it no more.
But not all. Some mercifully find sanctuary where they are
welcomed as wanted guests and given everything an elephant needs
to live in true elephant style. They spend their days roaming
free in natural woods and pasture, socializing with other elephants,
taking dust baths and splashing in ponds. There's Winkie from
the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin. There's Dulary from
the Philadelphia Zoo and Shirley from the Louisiana Purchase
Gardens and Zoo. Many others spent their entire working lives
traveling in circuses. Now they all roam 2,700 acres of natural-habitat
refuge in Hohenwald, Tennessee.
Tennessee? Why, of all places, Tennessee? Surprisingly to
most of us, Tennessee is the perfect spot for retired and weakened
elephants. The climate is temperate, similar to many of the locations
where elephants are born and spend their lives in the wild. It's
also a place where you can find thousands of acres still kept
as a natural habitat and nowhere near the encroachment of urban
sprawl. This is where you'll find The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald,
I use the term find loosely. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee
is not a theme park, not a zoo and certainly not a resident circus.
There's no entertainment. In fact, there's no access unless you
are a member of the staff or on occasional volunteer days. This
sanctuary is not just about elephants, it's FOR the elephants.
The whole idea is that elephants get to behave like elephants
do naturally, but in a safe environment with minimal unwanted
intrusion by humans. Oh, some interaction is wanted. Like the
soothing foot soaks and fresh produce deliveries. Ahhhh.
The rest of the time, the elephants are on their own. They're
free to roam the sanctuary grounds, pick and choose who they
care to hang out with at the moment, or come into their large
protective barns when it gets a little nippy on winter nights.
Most of the time they prefer to sleep outside, but the heated
floor and translucent walls of the new barn can be very enticing.
Wouldn't you just love to see what's happening at The Elephant
Sanctuary for yourself? There is a way. You can be an elephant
voyeur right now and peek in on what they're doing. Just click
on the EleCam, a real time video feed from selected spots on
the 2,700 acres. Perhaps you'll see a group of elephants just
browsing. Maybe its time to roll in the mud or splash in the
pond. One look and you'll find yourself coming back for a peek
whenever you have a few moments to spare.
If seeing the elephants and reading their stories brings a
lump to your throat, then you've found something you like to
be part of. Instead of just writing a check that gets lost in
the coffers of some megacharity, how about sending a few medical
supplies or some copy paper to The Elephant Sanctuary? They always
seem to need more replacement Verizon Wireless cell phones. For
some reason they keep getting lost in the water troughs, foot
soaks and muck. Do you have a favorite elephant? Perhaps one
you met as a child? How about calling their favorite grocer and
having some fresh produce sent over?
Of course, an operation this size has some pretty big needs
as well. A tractor with front-end loader costs $35,000. That's
a huge sum for most individuals, but with a click of the mouse
you can contribute something toward the goal. As of this writing,
there is a matching grant that will effectively double your contribution.
You be recognized almost immediately on the "Sanctuary Much"
There's truly something important for The Elephant Sanctuary
that will capture your imagination and bring a smile to your
face as you click the link and place your order. Check the constantly
updating Wish List and you'll see.
Want to leave a lasting legacy? Endow an elephant. Each elephant
has an endowment fund, kinda like a college fund, that will ensure
there is enough money to feed and care for that elephant indefinitely.
Put a little something away for a deserving elephant, just as
you would for those nieces, nephews and grand kids.
There's so much more to the heartwarming stories of these
elephants and their continuing adventures at The Elephant Sanctuary
in Tennessee. If you crave more, visit their website to read
the "Trunklines" newsletter and be sure to sign up
for their email "eTrunklines" newsletter so you, too,
can become part of the family.
Visit These Related Links:
The Elephant Sanctuary
in Tennessee - Founded in 1995, its
mission is to provide a haven for old, sick or needy elephants
and education on the crisis facing the wonderful animals that
we've all come to know and love.
Education - Learning materials for
teachers and parents. Two units focused on the needs of children
grades K-3 and 4-8 are available as free downloads for classroom
or home use.
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