WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 31-February 6, 2011)


Elephant refuge starts anew after founder’s firing.” By Kristin M. Hall. Washington Post/Associated Press. January 30, 2011. Nestled on a secluded tract in the wooded hills of rural Tennessee is a sight that would likely startle an outsider, if outsiders were permitted to see it: the nation’s largest sanctuary for old, sick and rescued elephants. For the past 15 years, elephants who had spent lifetimes in zoos and circuses have found a place to retire, rest and roam, far from noisy audiences and free from cramped quarters. Now, after an unexpected management change and a lawsuit filed by one of the original founders last year, their place of refuge is undergoing changes that may allow the world a better glimpse of their lives. The sanctuary that’s never been open to the public now wants to be a worldwide educational center for elephant care, while still remaining true to its mission to be a refuge for needy elephants. “The sanctuary is and has always been about far more than just the people who work in it,” said Rob Atkinson, the new CEO who arrived in Tennessee late last year. “It’s about the elephants.” In 1995, two former elephant trainers, Carol Buckley and Scott Blais, started the sanctuary near Hohenwald, Tenn., about 85 miles southwest of Nashville, in part because Tennessee’s temperate climate and vegetation made it a good home for African and Asian elephants. Buckley ran the place from the beginning, but later became at odds with the board of directors over money matters. She also said in a lawsuit that she was ordered by a board member to delay telling a state wildlife agency that one of the elephants tested positive for tuberculosis. The board, many of whom have been with the sanctuary for years, says that it negotiated with Buckley in hopes she would remain with the sanctuary in another position, but that she wouldn’t cooperate. She was fired in March and filed a lawsuit seeking $500,000 in damages and visitation rights to see one of the elephants. Buckley has since founded a new organization called Elephant Aid International.

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