Elephant Sanctuary Ousts Co-Founder
Mar 22, 2010 7:25 PM EDT
By Nick Beres
HOHENWALD, Tenn. - The co-founder of the internationally-known elephant sanctuary in Hohenwald is off the job. Carol Buckley said the Board of Directors has fired her.
"This was unbelievable and shocking. I had no idea. I was broadsided," said Buckley.
Buckley co-founded the elephant sanctuary 15 years ago. The 2,700 acre compound is currently home to 15 elephants. The sanctuary's mission is to provide a safe haven for old, sick or needy elephants.
"The sanctuary is home to me," said Buckley. "It's a place I manufactured in my head, and we erected it."
Marsha Richerdson is one of the not-for-profit sanctuary's 85,000 donor members. She said she trusted Buckley and wants answers about why the co-founder, a fierce advocate for the elephants, is leaving.
"Everybody is rethinking, how they are donating and what they will donate," said Richerdson.
Dr. William Shaffner is president of the elephant sanctuary.
"The vision of the sanctuary remains intact," said Shaffner.
Shaffner said the place remains true to the mission of providing help for elephants in need.
"It's still a place for the abuse elephants to come and remain and be loved and cared for," said Shaffner. He did not give a specific reason for Buckley's departure.
Buckley said some objected to her management style.
"Many of the staff were intimidated by me. That's true," said Buckley.
Buckley admitted she can be hard on staff and the elephants always came first. Over the years, she's become very close to many of the elephants she considers to be family.
"I don't believe I could live if I don't see them again," said Buckley.
Buckley said she can only see the elephants now by appointment. The board of directors asked her to move out of the home she lives in at the sanctuary.
Board President Shaffner said they've begun an international search to find a new CEO to replace Buckley.
The elephant sanctuary is one of two such places in the country with natural habitat for endangered Asian and African elephants.