The Elephant Discovery Center

This destination in Hohenwald, Tennessee, provides an engaging, hands-on learning experience for kids and grownups.

The Elephant Discovery Center in Hohenwald Tennessee (courtesy of The Elephant Sanctuary)

Tucked within the rural landscape of central Tennessee is a protected habitat for captive and abused elephants from around the world. It’s called The Elephant Sanctuary, and its mission is to provide the animals with a lifestyle that allows them to live out their natural lives as close to possible as how they would in the wild. They roam free like elephants should and without human interference.

The Elephant Discovery Center in nearby Hohenwald provides an engaging, hands-on elephant learning experience for kids and grownups. Museum-quality exhibits and high-tech wizardry bring to life the work of the sanctuary; the lives, loves and losses of its 10 or so residents; and the abuses and threats to the world’s elephant population. 

A key attraction is a grouping of silver pedestals — oversized touchpads that emit the varying sounds elephants make to communicate with one another. Press one button to hear an elephant being playful. Press another one to hear a call for attention. Another highlight is the live-streaming EleCam. Cameras at the sanctuary focus on the elephants’ favorite hangouts, and their activity is shown on big-screen monitors at the discovery center. Friendly staffers are on hand to help visitors identify the elephants spotted on screen. 

Also on display is the last ankle chain that bound Billie, who arrived at the sanctuary in 2006 at the age of 44 with the chain still intact. She had been taken from her family in India and sold into the performing industry. Today, Billie lounges in a pond and socializes with her buddy Ronnie, another former circus animal.

The fun continues outdoors at The Elephant Discovery Center, where a life-size mural depicts silhouettes of males and females of the three elephant species — African forest, African savannah and Asian — and explains their differences. (Be sure to get a photo of the sculpture of an elephant created from rubber tires, too.) Although you won’t see any elephants in person during your visit, you will walk away with fresh insight and an appreciation for these fascinating animals. 27 E. Main St., Hohenwald, Tennessee 38462, 931/796-6500,