Raising Sanctuary: Trust the big picture

There are many phases to starting a sanctuary from the ground up, beginning with an idea and knowing there is a need then walking a long, challenging and tireless path, pushing through doubt and infinite questions. I’ve been here before and it is still just as difficult maybe even more so the second time around.

The core that holds our focus and encourages us to keep going is trust, believing and knowing that we can make a difference and of course the elephants, some that we’ve met and many others that are hanging on waiting for happier days. Many times people have asked, why don’t the elephants just give up; in some ways they do, but they are a species that looks for the good in life, even if it’s a few fleeting moments of each day, they’ll string those together to make the most out of what is offered, even in a life that has little to live for. Most of us involved with Global Sanctuary for Elephants, our board members, donors and volunteers get involved to give back to elephants what our society has taken away from them. For those of us that have been blessed to work with elephants it’s a little different, we owe them because of what they have offered to us, they have made us better people, they have taught us how life should be lived, how to keep our hearts open and how to trust.

In the early days of building a sanctuary, the greatest attribute that we have is trust. Trust that we’re on the right path, no matter how many hiccups along the way; we have to listen, learn, adapt and keep pushing forward to the ultimate goal. Trust that when the time is right things will fall into place. Trust that all of these little steps that few people know exist will culminate and pay off. Trust that even as the picture in front of us changes, we still have the same goal to have a positive impact for as many elephants as possible. Trust that the influence for a brighter future extends well beyond fences and property lines; through this journey we’ll be helping elephants that we don’t even know exist. And as superficial as this may be, it is a fundamental that is impossible to ignore, we have to trust that money will come. It is in these early stages that we have to prove ourselves, our integrity, our desire and our ability to raise sanctuary. When we need it, money will be there, and it is rarely a moment too soon but it will come.

Building a sanctuary is quite elaborate; most pieces of the puzzle are never seen or heard of, there’s a tremendous amount of legwork that eventually comes together to create the spectacular future. It in undeniably an incredible journey with infinitely rewarding results but it’s not always easy. I’ve been down this road before, you would think that it would be easier but it was a different time with different doubts. In 1995 we started with 110 acres and a dream, now we know the dream will become reality and we are starting with more than 2500 acres. Before we didn’t know what would happen when elephants were given autonomy, now we know that they will thrive. Then, we thought that 100 acres a fence and a barn equaled sanctuary, now we know that it is so, so much more.

As we begin to share more details we hope to convey the elaborate web, the interconnected building blocks and the multitude of components that are the fabric of sanctuary. Some of these are tangible, some are based on logic and others are intuition, it’s an extraordinary balance of the yin and yang. One example of this balance is our desire and interest to accept male elephants and to give them what the females have been offered: the same space, the same choice, and the same trust. Logically, this is very challenging with many pivotal doubts and questions, some males in captivity, when they are in and out of musth, are aggressive toward females, males wander further and play harder, what will we need to do for them when they are in musth, will they need to be secluded, what about breeding and will they become docile and cooperative like the females when offered sanctuary. These are unknowns that we can’t fully answer, if you look at the wild, the answer is, of course it will work, but the trauma of captivity has taken it’s toll on all elephants, sometimes it has been worse on the males with prolonged isolation and more intense beatings. We know that it’s not always going to be easy or seamless, but we will take what we’ve learned to logically design and develop the facility that will allow us to adapt to the ever-changing needs that arise. Intuition says that it is going to be remarkable, that we’ll be surprised and pleased with the balance that will evolve and logic provides us with the tools to help cultivate and support what ever the future brings.


It is this balance of the tangible and intangible, steeped with trust that will allow us to create sanctuary, not only the physical space but also the philosophy and the culture of sanctuary. For now, we’ll focus more on the tangible elements; we’ll explore topics of space, climate, topography and transport; discussing influential factors and the balance of ideal and suitable.

Blogs coming soon:

Mothers Day- growing up without family

Space, how much is enough?

What entails proper suitable space?

Males too? Really??? But…

and many more.

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