Movement Around Sanctuary: How It Gives the Elephants Some Autonomy

For several days, Lady seemed quite content to spend time in the three smaller yards. They haven’t been used much in a while, so there is lots to graze on. Bermuda grass has begun to spring up there and around the property, introduced by the hay we use for the elephants, and often planted by cattle farmers in the region. It seeds naturally after they eat, or when they leave little bits along the trails and pathways. After a few days, Lady seemed to get a little restless, so we opened up Yard 5 for her to explore. 

We took advantage of the time that Lady stayed in Yards 1-3, to open up Yards 4 and 5 to each other. When we do this, the girls usually come into 5 for a few hours, and then go right back into Yard 4. But this time, Maia decided to make herself at home in Yard 5. The very back of Yard 5 used to be one of her favorite spots, so after a little bit, Maia crossed the creek into the other side of the yard and stayed there for five days. She would happily graze, then nap, graze, then nap. Every time someone drove past, Maia was still in the same general area, seemingly at ease. 

When Lady seemed like she was getting ready to wander, we opened up between Yards 4 and 5 again. Maia had already come closer to the barn that morning and shifted back into Yard 4 on her own. Lady can now venture into Yard 5 and Maia can continue increasing her comfort around Bambi, Rana, and Mara.

Asian habitat map rev6

Lady is shown above, enjoying a stroll through the habitat. We’ve also included a simple sanctuary map that might help you visualize everyone’s movements.


  1. REPLY
    Susan says

    I love this map and enjoy looking at it after a good adventure story! Love hearing about and visualizing the enjoyment the Ladies get from Sanctuary and fascinating to learn how they love grazing and eating foods from nature. Thank you for the update! ❤️🐘❤️

  2. REPLY
    Deb says

    Oh love the map! How many acres in each yard?

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      all 5 are about 85 acres total

  3. REPLY
    Susan Flewelling says

    May I ask why the property is divided up into yards and why they are intermittently open/closed. My apologies if this has been covered previously.

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      No apologies needed, it’s a valid question and we certainly don’t mind answering. The sanctuary and everything we do, has been dictated by the elephants we have worked with in our past. Scott first worked with elephants at the age of 15 and co-founded the elephant sanctuary in Tennessee at the age of 21. The construction is designed for worse case scenario, although we always hope for the best. Divided yards allow for safe introductions, but also allow for closer yards in case of injury or illness, being able to safely close off one yard to do repairs or cleaning in another, or divide the habitat if you have elephants that don’t get along. Unfortunately, captivity damages elephants emotionally, and this includes their social nature. These herds aren’t true herds that are made up of related females. And although it is the best captivity has to offer, we still need to be realistic of the issues that many of these elephants come with. This design has served us well with when Guida and Maia initially rejected Rana, when Mara decided she didn’t want to share space with Bambi, when Maia wanted her own space away from Mara, Bambi, and Rana, and of course, with Lady, whose physical limitations make it so that she is not always comfortable sharing space with other elephants. While she did share space with Rana and Mara, Maia and Bambi have always been a little too fast for her. Sanctuary is a place of safety, where for the first time these elephants’ lives are all about them and they are given the ability to choose who they want to be with and where they want to go, and this can only happen if you design a facility that allows for this to happen safely. If the girls were all good with each other, we could open up all of the gates and everyone would have access to each area. So whether the situation is all good, or not at all, our facilities are prepared to give the elephants whatever they need.

  4. REPLY
    Sherry says

    There go the elephants loving every minute of their sanctuary!

  5. REPLY
    Kenneth B. Newman says

    Will Tamy be able to come up to the fence and see Guiullermina and Pocha once ALL three have been brought to GSE?
    How much of the barn and fencing for Tamy has been completed?

    And is any of the African female barn and fencing completed?

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      There is a corridor that connects the male and female Asian yards, so P&G can go in there or Tamy can go in as well. Tamy’s barn roof structure is done, 2/3 of the stalls are done, yard 1 is fenced, and half of yard 2. The African female barn and first 3 yards are complete.

  6. REPLY
    Alana says

    She is so cute! Love her freckles!

  7. REPLY
    Wim says

    All very smart moves. The grass is always greener in the other yard.

  8. REPLY
    Elke Riesterer says

    Thanks much for the map as it really helps to see where the ladies are moving around. 😊
    🙏🏽Blessings 🐘

  9. REPLY
    Anita Janusz says

    I so enjoyed reading your comments attached to all your photos. They are like mini stories. Snippets from girls lives. Love it. And I can’t believe how well they all look even after short stay in this beautiful sanctuary. It is magical place, that’s why💖🐘🌴

  10. REPLY
    Debbie Sides says

    I love Lady’s little hay hat👒 and the map showing the cute trees and Guida’s and Ramba’s resting place. Bless.💚

  11. REPLY
    Shae says

    I can’t visualize 85 acres and the drone pics sometimes look small. Can you tell me how long it would take to walk from one end of the Asian yards to the other?

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      20-25 minutes maybe? it’s the second-largest captive-managed elephant habitat, second to the elephant sanctuary in TN. although I believe Nosey is in a space smaller than that currently and the quarantine area that Lizzie, Frieda, and Billie were in was smaller than that as well.

  12. REPLY
    John says

    Compared to their previous lives, GSE must feel like heaven for each of the elephants.

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