Unfortunately, we live in world that runs rampant with displacement. People are can be displaced by a myriad of things. Anything from war to drought can be responsible for taking away one's home. The word sanctuary comes with a lot of baggage, there's no way around that. Many don't consider this when they visit an elephant sanctuary, they simply feel like hanging out with a few elephants. Elephant sanctuaries are not zoos, they are facilities. Sure, some of them utilize tourism as a way to keep the lights on but the main goal of an credible sanctuary is always providing elephants with a safe place to live out their days. Elephants can find themselves at a sanctuary for one or many reasons. Some elephants have been rescued from abusive situations where they were improperly managed and mistreated. Some elephants were relocated after their home range was taken over by humans, leaving them with no place to safely roam. Some elephants were orphaned when their mothers died prematurely. It is almost always because of humans that an elephant finds itself at a sanctuary and it is because of this that so many kind souls have taken it upon themselves to help out our elephant friends. Here are a few places around the world that have made it their job to provide care to elephants in need.
The Elephant Sanctuary (US)
The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee is the largest natural habitat refuge for elephants in the United States. The sanctuary has housed dozens of elephants over its nearly 20 years of service. It is on more than 2700 acres of land, divided for Asian and Elephants to enjoy their respective habitats.While the facility is often reserved from the public, it dedicates itself to elephant education in the US.
Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (Baan Tuek, Thailand)
Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary is built out of love. Katherine Connor, the founder of BLES, started the sanctuary in memory of a baby elephant named Boon Lott (which means survivor in Thai). Born premature, Boon Lott was transported with his mother to the hospital where Connor was volunteering. When Connor met the three-month calf, she knew there was an instant connection. She enacted campaigns and fundraising to ensure that Boon Lott’s mother would stay with her calf until he was of age to be on his own.
All seemed to be going well until a fall left Boon Lott paralyzed. Despite the opinions of international experts, Connor was determined to ensure Boon Lott continued to live a happy, fulfilling life. Connor managed to raise funds to build him a hydrotherapy pool to aid in his rehabilitation, and even found a team to assist in creating the world’s first elephant wheelchair for Boon.
Sadly, Boon Lott sustained an injury from another fall that would prevented him from ever standing again. His injuries became to much of a detriment to his survival and he passed away. In Boon’s memory, Connor cares for local elephants in honor of his heroic will to overcome adversity.
Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre (Temerloh, Malaysia)
The Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre differs from the conventional sanctuary. Although Kuala Gandah takes in elephants that are gravely injured or in need of immediate assistance, it’s mainly concerned with relocating elephants displaced from encroaching development. Since establishing its translocation program, the center has helped relocate over 400 elephants.
The Thai Elephant Conservation Center
(Chiang Mai, Thailand)
The Elephant Conservation Center is the only government-owned camp in Thailand. The center is home to the Thai King’s, HM Bhumibol, six white elephants. Founded in 1993, the center runs an elephant hospital and is also home to Thailand’s first mobile elephant clinic which treats elephants in need for free.
The center dedicates its efforts in furthering research on elephants. Its findings have been implemented in the center to achieve a large natural birth rate of about two offspring a year.
Elephantsworld (Kanchanaburi, Thailand)
Elephantsworld, founded in 2008, is the newest sanctuary on our list. In its eight years, the sanctuary has grown to function as a “retirement home” of sorts. Elephantsworld also offers a selection of programs for volunteers to come and learn about their elephants while assisting in their care.
Visitors can stay for a few nights as an introduction, or up to one to four weeks for the full Ellie experience.
The sad truth is that we no longer live in a world where all elephants can thrive in the wild. Our consistent violation of their natural rights have put them in a position that is remarkably difficult to adapt to. Living in human care will never be an ideal situation for an elephant but unfortunately, sometimes that is the only option. If you plan on visiting elephants please do some research and make sure that you are only supporting credible sanctuaries.