Europe’s First Elephant Sanctuary Will Soon Open in France

With more and more countries banning wild animals from circuses, these gentle giants will need a nice place to go after their circus careers.


(Dmytro Gilitukha /

Retired circus elephants finally have a place to call home thanks to Europe’s first sanctuary set to open in France. Animal rights group World Animal Protection has teamed with Elephant Haven to help fund and build the much needed safe haven for liberated circus elephants.

Volunteers have already started the construction of the first elephant barn located on a beautiful 70-acre property in the central French region of Limousin with plans already underway to build an additional barn to house five more elephants by 2020.

The collaboration between the two charities began after successful lobbying by World Animal Protection and over 50,000 animal lovers to the Danish Parliament to ban wild animals in circuses.

Incredibly, an additional 14 European countries followed suit, implementing similar laws to end the cruel practice of using animals for entertainment.

Across the world, hundreds of thousands of elephants, tigers, and other wild animals get captured and forced to entertain in circus performances for profit. Although watching these amazing animals may seem like harmless fun, tourists may not realize the hidden cruelty. Behind the curtains, circus trainers use painful tools like whips, bullhooks, and electric prods to force these animals to stand on their heads and jump through hoops for the public.

Sadly, over 100 elephants remain forced to entertain in circuses across Europe, but thanks to recent efforts, dozens of liberated elephants can finally retire. Relocating the animals to their original habitats is not always possible, which is why Elephant Haven will become Europe’s first sanctuary for these animals. Steve McIvor, CEO of World Animal Protection, explains:

"As the long-awaited circus bans come into place across Europe, Elephant Haven is a desperately needed sanctuary where former circus elephants will be safely housed with a life they deserve. These elephants have suffered a lifetime of misery, held in captivity and forced to endure cruel and intensive training to make them ‘safe’ to interact with people and entertain.”

"Denmark’s commitment to ban circus elephants is a huge victory for us and is part of a chain reaction across Europe to end the misery and suffering of these majestic animals. The best place to see an elephant is in the wild or, in the next best place, a genuine elephant sanctuary,” continues McIvor."

Volunteers have already moved forward with assembling a concrete, insulated elephant barn which will come equipped with a heating system. Next, they will put up a fence giving the elephants a place to play.

By 2020, the project will expand to include another barn to house an additional five elephants. The charities will then add a platform for visitors to safely watch the elephants roam freely. Permanent security and cameras throughout the grounds will monitor the safety of the animals at all times.

Tony Verhulst, co-founder of Elephant Haven says, "There is no place for elephants to retire in Europe, and we are so pleased that we are giving them a safe haven. Retired elephants from circuses deserve a happy place to live out the rest of their lives. The elephants are our priority and we will work hard to keep them safe."

You can support the Elephant Haven by donating to help build a retirement home for elephants.


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