Founder Buckley ousted from Elephant Sanctuary
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2010:
HOHENWALD, Tennessee–Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee
cofounder Carol Buckley, ousted from the organization on March 17,
2010, in early April announced the formation of a new nonprofit
umbrella for her work called International Elephant Aid.
“Over the next year I will travel internationally seeking
projects and problems, brainstorming with others involved in elephant
welfare and assisting those in need,” Buckley posted to her personal
web site. “My goal is to be a resource, bringing to the table all
that my work has taught me over these past 36 years. Providing
sanctuary is a worldwide need, and now I plan to make it a reality.”
As a start, Buckley said. “I will be searching for
opportunities to learn about elephant and mahout life in Nepal,
India, and Thailand. With elephants being banned from zoos in India
and mahouts forbidden from bringing elephants into Bangkok to beg,”
Buckley explained, “I am excited about the possibilities of creating
sanctuaries where wild-born, captivity-raised elephants can once
again be returned to a semi-wild environment. My work has
demonstrated that given sanctuary, elephants naturally form lifelong
bonds. Even unrelated herd members form relationships reminiscent of
the family dynamics of their wild counterparts.”
Buckley did not respond to inquiries from ANIMAL PEOPLE and
the Nashville Tennessean.
Buckley began her work with elephants in 1974, as caretaker
for a baby elephant named Tarra who was imported from Burma by a
southern California tire dealer as a promotional stunt just before
the Endangered Species Act halted elephant imports by private parties.
Eventually Buckley bought Tarra and performed with her in
circuses until circa 1980, but retired from performing after coming
to realize that circus life is not natural for elephants.
Buckley, 55, and Scott Blais, 38, opened the Elephant
Sanctuary in Tennessee in 1995. It was more spacious, then, than
all other sanctuaries for captive elephants combined. The only
comparable sanctuary today, the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s
Ark 2000, debuted five years later.
The beginning of the end for Buckley at the Elephant
Sanctuary came soon after acting chief executive officer Mary Baker
joined the staff in November 2009. The Elephant Sanctuary web site
describes Baker as a “strategic consultant with more than 20 years
experience consulting with not-for-profit and for-profit
“On November 21, 2009,” Buckley posted, “I was placed on
an involuntary leave of absence. I was told by the board that some
staff had complained that they felt intimidated by my management
style. I was instructed not to speak to staff, media, or donors.
On January 19, 2010, I was removed as CEO, president, and board
“I was offered employment as director of global outreach,”
Buckley said, which would have allowed Buckley to do work similar to
the mission Buckley projects for Internatonal Elephant Aid, but
Buckley objected that this would have removed her from the Elephant
Sanctuary, including her home on the grounds; would have kept her
from contact with the elephants, including Tarra, and would have
restricted her “from doing any elephant welfare work in the United
States,” she added.
Baker fired Buckley on March 17, 2010. Blais posted a
message of support for the decision to the Elephant Sanctuary web
site, but the sanctuary did not offer any explanation for ousting