Limousin charity aims to help retired circus elephants

Belgian vets Sofie Goetghebeur and Tony Verhulst are building a retirement home for ex-circus elephants

Following last week's announcement that Italy and Ireland are to ban wild animals in circuses, animal rights workers are pushing hard for France to follow suit.

Constant travelling means the needs of big cats, elephants, camels and other wild animals cannot be met.

There are about 100 elephants in circuses across the EU and all of them - particularly solitary animals - are said to suffer terrible mental distress, as well as physical problems such as arthritis and TB.

There are multiple court cases going on to liberate these animals, but where are they to go if freed? It is not as if a circus elephant can simply be released into the wild.

A charity in the Limousin, founded by two Belgian vets, Sofie Goetghebeur and Tony Verhulst, hopes to have an answer.

The duo is building a retirement home for ex-circus elephants. They have the land, they have the planning permission, they have all the necessary paperwork to cover the arrival of the first three elephants.

What they need now is an 'ele-barn' where the animals can sleep in the warm, and receive veterinary treatment.

The initial cost to adapt the existing shelter (which is basically an agricultural structure with a concrete floor and a tin roof but no walls) is estimated at around €150,000, and Elephant Haven is fund-raising urgently via online crowdfund IndieGogo and their own website.

"We need to make this first down payment as soon as possible so that the work can start in January," says Ms Goetghebeur. "We need help because it's so urgent. People are rightly fighting to get elephants out of travelling circuses, but where are retired elephants to live?"

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