Elephant Sanctuaries are the hope for rescued and badly abused elephants.
A subject that’s very close to us here at We Love Elephants is my that of Elephant Sanctuaries. These gracious, magnificent beasts deserve only the best when it comes to a safe haven to rest and recover from a life of abuse.
Of the two elephant species on our planet today, each one has its own unique pressures and persecutions. The African elephants are mercilessly slaughtered for their tusks and displayed in poorly funded zoos. While the Asian elephants are brutally trained for entertainment and heavy duty work.
As a result, on both continents you can find cases of elephants that have worked tediously all their lives. Because of that abuse they are now old, sick or injured.
Obviously, these elephants can’t just be let loose back into the wild as they are already domesticated. That’s because their chances of survival on their own would be pretty slim.
So what happens to them thereafter? This is a lingering problem especially in Asia. Estimates say about 2,000 elephants are still in captivity for entertainment purposes. Especially in Thailand.
That’s where elephant sanctuaries come in. Basically, these are places where these animals can be preserved and protected. Also, they get to live a healthy life, free from physical and emotional torture.
Below are 10 elephant sanctuaries run by people that genuinely care for elephants.
10 Elephants Sanctuaries Worldwide You Have Got To See
1) Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, Thailand
Location: Just outside the village of Baan Tuel north of Bangkok.
This was a labor of love for the founder of this refuge. It started as a memory to a baby elephant called Boon Lott, which means “survivor’ in Thai. After establishing an instant connection to the elephant, founder Katherine Connor vowed to take care of the baby animal. It was born prematurely.
A fall left Boon Lott paralyzed, and Connor determined to do all she could to ensure the most fulfilling life possible. Thereafter, she built him a hydrotherapy pool. In addition, she amazingly, found a team to help create the world’s first wheelchair for elephants.
Boon had another fall, though, which prevented him from standing at all. His survival was in jeopardy and he died soon after. Connor now takes care of elephants in honor of Boon as her prime objective in life.
2) Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), USA
Location: California, USA
PAWS has been working solidly for many years to rescue animals, including elephants. These creatures are mainly victims of exotic and performing animal scenarios.
These animals get sanctuary from the bizarre and cruel lives that they were forced to lead for the enjoyment of human audiences. PAWS also provides education on the issues of breeding wild animals in captivity, and those used purely for entertainment purposes.
At the elephant habitats, the animals get to enjoy acres of different natural terrain. This allows them to roam freely and enjoy the many lakes available. Also, the facilities include state-of-the-art elephant barns equipped with heated stalls and and indoor therapeutic pool.
3) Elephant Nature Park, Northern Thailand
Location: 60km outside Chiang Mai.
This is a very reputable rescue and rehabilitation center for elephants.
Animals are known to thrive in elephant sanctuaries such as this one. The owner, Lek, tells terrible tales of how some arrive at the park with dislocated hips and scars. These wounds come from bull hooks (hooks used to pierce elephant ears) to teach the animals new tricks.
Education plays a vital role for visitors to the park. People are taught everything about how the park is providing care and rehabilitation for these gorgeous creatures.
4) Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Thailand
Location: They have two 2 locations: one in Northern Thailand near Chiang Mai, and the second one in the south on the island of Phuket.
This is another safe home for elephants in Thailand. Actually, every one of the creatures here was rescued from trekking camps and other harmful practices like commercial logging or circuses.
Though this sanctuary does not permit riding the elephants you can still play with them, feed them and enjoy mud baths with them too.
5) Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre, Malaysia
Location: Temerloh, Pahang
If you are seeking elephant sanctuaries with a different approach, then this is one of those. It does accommodate elephants that have been badly injured, but its main aim is to relocate elephants that are displaced.
Human developments frequently encroach on elephant habitat leading to human-elephant conflict. So this sanctuary helps such elephants.
In fact, since this initiative started, it has helped with the relocation of over 400 elephants.
6) The Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Thailand
Location: Hang Chat District, Lampang
The only government-owned reserve in Thailand, it is home to six white elephants belonging to the Thai King, HM Bhumibol. The center also runs an elephant hospital and is home to the first mobile elephant clinic, treating all elephants for free.
As you may have noticed, there are many elephant sanctuaries in Thailand. That’s because they are so mistreated due to the tourism and logging industries there.
7) The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Kenya
Location: Off Magadi Road, Nairobi
This sanctuary has rescued over 150 orphaned elephants and is well known as one of the most successful elephant rescue centers in the world. The park works in collaboration with community development initiatives, providing a comprehensive wildlife protection scenario.
In addition, the long-term goal of the Trust is to reintegrate these elephants back into the wild. And they are achieving this goal very successfully.
8) Dubare Wildlife Sanctuary
Location: Southwest of Bangalore
Many volunteers come to this sanctuary to help with the well-being of these majestic creatures. This elephant haven is famed as the home of the Mysore Dussehra elephants.
The volunteers tell of developing deep bonds with the animals as they also become involved with initiatives such as feeding, habitat plantation, reforestation, and general ecological maintenance.
9) Bannerghatta Biological Park and Elephant Sanctuary, India
Location: Karnataka, 22 km from Bangalore
Another great refuge for elephants in India. This is a place that is safe for the animals to be able to roam freely without the threat of poachers.
The recently completed sanctuary houses elephants rescued from temples and logging camps and is known to be the first of its kind in India. It is located within the Biological Park, near Bangalore and is enclosed by solar-powered electric fences.
In India, elephants are often snatched from the wild if they are unprotected.
Many of these elephants have spent their lives chained. Those in trekking or logging camps are normally taken from their mothers at a young age and “broken in” with chains and endure other forms of abuse to force them to behave.
At the sanctuary, mahouts, or handlers, have been trained on humane ways of interacting with the elephants.
A famous member among the herd is called Sunder. The Indian Supreme Court freed this animal in 2014. Before then, he was chained in a temple and abused for many years.
Sunder now has a wonderful new life at Bannerghatta!
10) The Elephant Sanctuary, USA
Location: Hohenwald, Tennessee, USA
This elephant haven in the USA has been providing safety and loving care for elephants for over 20 years.
The sanctuary started with the aim of providing rest and refuge for the animals. It’s totally dedicated to the wellbeing of elephants retired from zoos and circuses.
Most of these creatures are suffering long-term health and behavioral issues due to spending so many years in captivity.
Note that this center has a strict volunteer policy and they are not open to the general public.
Some Tips For A Successful Visit To Elephant Sanctuaries
- Many of them require advance booking so contact them through their websites before you travel down.
- Go along with comfortable walking shoes, flipflops, sandals, sunscreen, and bug/mosquito repellent.
- Take a change of clothing and include shorts and swim wear.
- Go along with a camera preferably a waterproof one.
- Treat the animals with gentleness and respect.
- Some of these sanctuaries offer overnight or even week-long lodging arrangements. Discuss with them beforehand especially if you have special dietary needs.
Most of all, remember to follow all the rules and instructions while you are there.
3. Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre, Malaysia