ALIAS Nonprofit Partner Spotlight: The Elephant Sanctuary

elephant sanctuary

Elephant SanctuaryALIAS is proud to announce The Elephant Sanctuary as the nonprofit partner for the November 12th Fall Concert. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is situated on 2,700 acres in Lewis County and is the nation’s first and largest natural-habitat refuge developed specifically for Asian and African elephants. The nonprofit’s Development Manager is Lee Levine – who is also one of the musicians in the ALIAS chamber ensemble. Lee took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to share her excitement about this new partnership.

How long have you worked for The Elephant Sanctuary? What made you decide to become involved with the organization?

I just celebrated my first-year anniversary and I’m so excited to be here! I’ve been a fan and supporter of The Elephant Sanctuary since it opened almost 20 years ago, and when they needed a Development Manager, I went for it. I was looking for a position in the nonprofit sector and this was a perfect fit for me.

What can you tell us about the nonprofit that many people may not know?

The Sanctuary began in 1995 with one elephant on 110 acres in Hohenwald, Tenn.; within ten years, it grew to accommodate 24 elephants on 2,700 acres. Several of these elephants were relinquished by former owners who wanted a better life for them; others were placed here after USDA transferred them out of detrimental circumstances. Many suffer from long-term health and behavioral issues common to elephants in captivity, such as tuberculosis, osteomyelitis, obesity, arthritis, early mortality, and periodic aggression. Sanctuary elephants are no longer asked to perform for humans; rather, their habitat is closed to the public and they enjoy freedom-of-choice to live as they would in a natural environment, with a herd, home, and individualized care for life.

The Elephant Sanctuary collaborates with the University of Tennessee’s School of Veterinary Medicine and the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine to help develop new protocols for health issues, diagnostics and treatment plans that will benefit our elephants as well as elephants everywhere. Through its international outreach programming, The Elephant Sanctuary has assisted Ecopolis in improving the circumstances of Ramba – the last circus elephant in Chile – and supported Global Sanctuary for Elephants’ work to locate land and resources so that Ramba might have a forever home in South America.

So, this is a complex and active nonprofit with a $4.5 million budget, a national donor base, a staff of 35 dedicated individuals, as well as brand-recognition and the ability to make a huge impact on elephant care and wellbeing, worldwide.

What’s the biggest challenge with your new role at The Elephant Sanctuary?

It’s hard to prove measurable data outcomes with our work, and it can be difficult to showcase what we do, because the public is not allowed to see the elephants in person. Early on in The Sanctuary’s development, a major challenge was fulfillment of the educational component of its mission without compromising its purpose as a true sanctuary (where elephants are not put on display). Through 14 digital cameras mounted on grounds, we are now able to live-stream videos of the elephants in their natural habitats to classrooms, homes, and offices anywhere in the world. In the past year, we’ve reached 1,600 primary school students in 19 states with Distance Learning. There 180,000 unique viewers on the Elecams just in May of this year, and The Elephant Sanctuary’s Facebook page currently has over 330,000 Likes.

What do you love most about working with this unique nonprofit?

Amazing events at The Elephant Sanctuary have become viral videos, such as Shirley and Jenny: Two Elephants Reunited after More Than 20 Years (7 million views) and The Animal Odd Couple (4.6 million views), about the enduring love between our founding elephant Tarra and her BFF Bella, a small white dog. We have an elephant Misty who has been here for eight years and never wanted to leave the barn yard. Despite hundreds of acres of habitat to explore, invisible bonds were keeping her near the barn – until recently. Caregivers saw something different about her one morning in June: a gleam in her eye. For the first time, Misty stepped out and walked a mile on her arthritic feet. She found the 25-acre lake in the heart of the habitat and went for a swim, then took a nap in the mud, and has been out there ever since. It was fabulous! People were watching this live on the Internet through the Elecams, and posting celebratory comments on our Facebook page. It’s gratifying to see people appreciate these success stories, and to see these elephants learn how to “just be an elephant” once again.

ALIAS Fall Concert Line Up – November 12, 2014

Nonprofit Partner: Elephant Sanctuary

  • Toru Takemitsu “and then I knew ’twas wind” for flute, viola and harp
  • Johannes Schmelzer “Sonata” for violin and continuo
  • Ernest Bloch “Nocturnes” for piano trio
  • Kevin Volans “Hunting, Gathering” for string quartet
  • Steven Snowden “Appalachian Polaroids” for string quartet