“We are so happy”, says Tony Verhulst, who is planning to create Europe’s first sanctuary for retired and sick circus and zoo elephants at Bussière Galant with his partner, Sophie Goetghebeur.
“It has been very very hard work but we feel very positive about the project now and we are getting more and more support from many different people. Our two local mayors are behind the scheme.
“One has donated concrete pylons for a fence and the other has helped with paperwork.
“We have just had a team of volunteers to help out and companies are donating material.
“This month, we are awaiting the arrival of a donated digger from Holland, which will help with building work. We thank everybody for their support.”
The couple arrived in France from Belgium in 2014 because of the availability of suitable land here. In 2016 they bought 29 hectares of land, big enough for 10 elephants and now plan a €1million barn and enclosure for three elephants.
They already have some of the funding but will launch a crowdfunding site this month to help meet the shortfall.
Mr Verhulst feels people will be more prepared to give now the project has been approved – and there will be no shortage of elephants: “There is a growing list of European countries banning wild animals in circuses and we wish to offer the elephants who no longer have a home there a place for life, full of space and tranquillity.”