As circuses close across the world, dozens of animals once forced into a life of entertainment are faced with a new chapter.
According to a press release from World Animal Protection, the Danish Parliament recently announced its commitment to banning the use of wild animals in circuses, and 14 other European countries are following suit.
While this is a win for the animal welfare organization, which has often fought against the treatment of circus animals, especially elephants, it also means that these European circus animals will need new homes in the next year or so, as the bans go into effect.
Realizing there is no safe space for the biggest animals of European circuses to retire to, World Animal Protection decided to build its own.
“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,” Steve McIvor, CEO at World Animal Protection, said in a statement. “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.”
The non-profit has teamed up with Elephant Haven to help fund and create Europe’s first elephant sanctuary and future home for retired circus elephants.
The new Elephant Haven location, which is being erected in France, will sit on 70 acres of land and will be able to start accepting circus elephants after the first barn is completed at the end of this summer.
There are also plans to expand the sanctuary with a second barn to be completed by 2020. Along with a visitor platform that will allow guests to watch animals roam freely, the sanctuary will also have security inside and outside the elephant barns to protect the animals from any harm.
“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,” Tony Verhulst, co-founder of Elephant Haven, said in a statement.