Retired circus elephants in Europe will soon have a safe place to call home, as World Elephant Protection (WAP) and Elephant Haven work together to build Europe’s first-ever elephant sanctuary.

Work has begun on the 70-acre plot of land in Limousin, France, with the first barn expected to be completed and ready to accept elephants by October this year.

The sanctuary is sorely needed, with more than 100 elephants currently remaining in circuses throughout Europe. Over 14 countries have introduced laws banning the use of wild animals in circuses, with many bans coming into effect in the next few years. Denmark is the latest country to jump on board.

“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,” said CEO of WAP, Steve McIvor. “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.”

Elephant Haven is already planning construction of a second barn – aiming to house another five elephants before 2020. The site will eventually be open to the public, but the elephants won’t be expected to work to earn their keep; visitors will watch from purpose-built platforms as the elephants roam and exhibit natural behaviors, just as they would in the wild.

elephant sanctuary europe

Image Credit: Elephant Haven, European Elephant Sanctuary

As with all good sanctuaries, there will be no direct contact between visitors and elephants. Restraints and chains will not be used, and there will only be protected contact between the elephants and their caregivers.

Elephant Haven’s mission is not only to offer elephants a place to retire – they aim to resocialize them into herds, provide valuable information and non-invasive research about the behavioral requirements of elephants, and “contribute to a world of respect and protection for elephants and their habitat.”

“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,” stated Tony Verhulst, Co-founder of Elephant Haven.