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Bardot gift to elephant OAP home

Plans for the first elephant ‘retirement home’ in Europe have been boosted by a €350,000 donation from the Brigitte Bardot animal foundation

The money will help set up Elephant Haven, a sanctuary being built at Bussière Galant, Haute-Vienne, to house some of an estimated 100 ele­phants due to retire from zoo and circus life.

Sophie Goetghebeur is behind the project with her partner, Tony Verhulst, and said it was a massive boost, adding: “We may at last be able to receive our first elephant by the end of this year.”

Fondation Brigitte Bardot, one of France’s biggest animal welfare charities, pledged the money to build a barn to house the first three elephants.

Structural work costs €570,000 and fund raising is still a priority as the interior will cost €150,000.

Ms Goetghebeur said the foundation had been following their progress from the start. “After we at last got the go-ahead for the project from the authorities last year, they came to see us.

“They were impressed by the number of volunteers here to help us and the support we have from local business and local authorities.”

Fondation spokesman Christophe Marie said it was one of their biggest financial projects in 2018 and was the kind of initiative it liked to support to get a positive result for the animals.

In all, 21 European countries ban or limit wild animals in circuses. Ms Goetghe­beur felt the circuses would not put the animals down but keep them, although not in good conditions.

At the haven, they hope to have room for three elephants and 10 maximum in the future as they need a lot of land and upkeep.

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