Work is now underway to build Europe’s first elephant sanctuary at Bussière-Galant in Haute-Vienne as volunteers started building a perimeter fence, the first step towards creating a 29-hectare area to welcome retired elephants from
circuses and zoos.
Tony Verhulst and Sofie Goetghebeur have spent four years on the project. Previously both worked at Antwerp Zoo, where Mr Verhulst was responsible for the elephants.
He realised there was nowhere for sick or old elephants and it was urgent to provide a home for them.
Belgium and the Netherlands have already banned them from circuses and there is debate in other countries.
This summer, volunteers from Belgian not-for-profit group MannenWerk organised a “working together on holiday” at the site and removed vegetation, set up poles and started to fence over a 1.5km stretch.
Work is starting after the couple found land and raised money to buy it and now they must find working finance to welcome their first elephants in 2017.
They hope to be able to open the sanctuary in 2018 after building a walking path and lookout platform.