Elephant Refuge North America (ERNA) Attapulgus, Georgia, USA
Elephant Aid International is creating the next generation of sanctuary for elephants in captivity.
Elephant Refuge North America will advance existing sanctuary standards, creating a new model for captive care of this highly evolved species. It will build on the experience gained at both accredited US sanctuaries over the past two decades, as well as what EAI has learned from our numerous projects in Asia.
When EAI Founder Carol Buckley built the nation’s first sanctuary exclusively for elephants in 1995, she took a dream and 100 acres in rural Tennessee and grew it into a state-of-the-art, 2700-acre natural habitat elephant refuge, the largest in history. During her 15 years as CEO, she created a model that came to define the gold standard for elephant care in captivity.
Today EAI is building on that model to define a NEW gold standard.
To improve the lives of elephants and their caregivers worldwide through the development and use of progressive management practices, noninvasive research, community education and international advocacy.
Elephant Refuge North America (ERNA), located in Attapulgus, Georgia, provides a natural environment in which captive-held elephants can recover from past traumas and develop healthy bonds with caregivers and other elephants. ERNA improves elephant welfare by collaborating with governments around the world, elephant caregivers and elephant owners; raising awareness of the plight of captive-held elephants everywhere they live; and advocating for improved standards and practices.
Built on experience and scientific advances
EAI draws on decades of experience designing and building sanctuaries that give captive elephants new lives of freedom and autonomy.
Using this experience, combined with the scientific knowledge gained over the past half-century about the needs of captive elephants, EAI is creating a new sustainable, eco-friendly, natural habitat home, where elephants will not merely survive, they will thrive.
The new refuge will rescue and rehabilitate elephants in an elegantly simple and sustainable format and continue a mission of raising awareness of the lives of all elephants in captivity. It will also contribute to the growing body of knowledge of captive-held elephant welfare through non-invasive, observational research and educational outreach.
Changing culture by training mahouts
EAI works in Asia, within the existing traditions of elephant care, providing alternatives to chaining and dominance-based management.
But change is tedious and slow. Peer pressure among the mahouts (elephant trainers) hinders their process: breaking away from tradition is difficult when one has few examples of alternative methods.
Partnering with universities and governments, the refuge will host mahouts who want to increase their knowledge and learn new ways of working with elephants. The participants will combine study with hands-on experience, learning science-based elephant management techniques without the use of dominance and force.
That is why EAI will provide something new and unique: hands-on internships for mahouts from Asia.
When the mahouts return home to Asia and their elephants, armed with polished skills and a new-found confidence in a compassion-based approach to elephant management, they will teach their peers, hastening change and creating new traditions in elephant care culture.
- We exist to improve elephant welfare worldwide.
- Our respect for elephants and caregivers alike motivates every decision we make.
- Our noninvasive research exists to benefit the elephants.
- We learn from the elephants and each other.
- Recognizing the interrelatedness of all life is paramount to our work.