Just outside Hohenwald, Tennessee, there’s an 812-acre farm that is very unique. Tarra, Barbara, and Jenny live there.
When we meet these three young adults, we discover they are elephants. This special farm is the first natural sanctuary for elephants in the United States.
An Elephant Sanctuary?
Why an elephant sanctuary? Carol Buckley is one of the founders. She answers this question. “A sanctuary because it’s about time that these animals that are wild born but kept I captivity have a place that is developed to meet their needs. A Sanctuary can do that for this species. We can provide them with a habitat that’s going to be healthy for them,” states Carol.
Tarra was the first resident of this haven for elephants. Carol first met Tarra when she was imported from Thailand to promote a tire store business in California.
Carol also decided to buy Tarra with a $25,000 loan. They appeared in circuses and amusement parks until performing became tedious for Tarra. “I didn’t see anything else on the Horizon…. other opportunities for elephants…performing, doing rides or on exhibit,” states Carol.
After trying all these options, Carol made a discovery, “This is not meeting the needs of the elephants…there is no place..so that’s when I decided that I needed to be …so simple…be a part of.”
So how did Tennessee become the location for the only Elephant sanctuary in the United States?
“We looked everywhere…Hohenwald has the climate, the terrain, much like Southeast Asia. Even the bamboo is natural here.”
Since this beginning, two more elephants have moved to the sanctuary, Jenny and Barbara. Both have had tragic lives in captivity in which they both developed emotional and physical scars. Now that they reside at the sanctuary, they are able to become healthy elephants again without the trauma that is sometimes created while in captivity.
Scott Blais, the other founder of the sanctuary works with Carol to take care of the elephants.
“An elephant is not just standing therefore you to see. It’s a walking, grazing, talking creature that really has a soul, emotions, and expresses those emotions,” says Scott. “One thing we can learn is lack of aggression. Humans tend to live and react in the moment and respond negatively. Elephants respond positively if they are allowed to be elephants.
Aggression in humans is very prominent. We tend to solve everything by arguing.” Scott continues, “Elephants have a better grasp of everything around them.”
Raising an Elephant is like Raising a Child
“Raising an elephant can be like raising a child…20 years to get to full grown,” Says Carol.
Elephants play, run and make all kinds of interesting sounds to express how they feel.
Carol “They all have personalities and moods. Tarra is the moodiest…most spoiled.”
“When Jenny gets excited she thumps her trunk like an exclamation point. It will almost be quiet again and Jenny will thump her trunk. Okay I got the last word in.”
“They lie down to sleep, tuck their trunks, snoring. I think Tarra is the loudest,” Carol reveals.
After visiting this elephant sanctuary, you can’t help but feel that elephants deserve to have a place to retreat after being in captivity.
Carol and Scott have many future plans for the elephant sanctuary. They are always looking for elephants in need and can expand the sanctuary up to 100 elephants. For now, this is only the beginning of the discoveries from this unique habitat.
So the next time you are driving around Tennessee and hear a herd of elephants don’t be alarmed. They are just your neighbor’s right here at home.