Who are Elephant Haven?
Elephant Haven founders; Tony Verhulst and Sofie Goetghebeur had a vision of creating a Haven for elephants to retire and to facilitate the resocialization and rehabilitation of captive‐kept elephants whilst providing information and research into their complex needs and behaviors. Tony and Sofie have assembled a team of experts and organisations who share their passion for elephants with the aim to create a European ‘Elephant Haven’.
Why do we need a retirement home for elephants in Europe?
There are currently 141 elephants in circuses and 540 elephants living in zoos across Europe. With a ban on elephants in circuses currently sweeping throughout European countries, and the realisation by many circus owners that such large animals are becoming impossible to transport through increasingly busy towns and cities, more and more elephants are being retired from circus life. Relocating the elephants back to their country of origin is not a realistic option, but creating a safe haven for them in Europe is.
Read more about the Elephant Haven project in our Elephant Haven Brochure.
Why we need your help?
Elephant Haven are planning to build six stables with heated living quarters with a large outside paddock which will always be accessible to the elephants by day and night. The living quarters consist of six interconnecting sand stables with nursing and training walls, separated by a corridor that can be used for introductions and provide additional interior space.
Outside there will be at least 5 acres of parkland per elephant, including lakes and woodland, providing privacy for new arrivals who require solitude.
The small hills encourage mobility, trees and shrubs provide scratching posts and a source of enrichment and exploration.
Additional living quarters are also required for a quarantine barn, enabling the treatment of sick or injured elephants, the separation of Asian and African elephants and to aid social rehabilitation.
Between the various outside paddocks we will be using steel pipe fences, allowing different groups of elephants to live separately from each other. By means of gates the habitats can be opened, making it possible to create an even larger living space. Adjacent habitats can also be used to introduce elephants in a more natural and peaceful environment, ensuring their well being and safety.
The founders of Elephant Haven
Tony Verhulst and Sofie Goetghebeur have both been working at Antwerp Zoo since 1993. Tony has been caring for the elephants since 2001, while Sofie has gained experience in the care of birds, small monkeys, okapi, marine mammals, gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, and the elephants.
For the safety of people and other animals, the elephants are housed behind fences, and to reduce visual barriers we will build low retaining walls so the elephants can enjoy distant views of the hills and valleys in this beautiful location.
From his childhood, Tony became passionate about the fate of all animals, in particular the animals that depend on people. Tony has gained international experience with elephants and from this passion and knowledge the idea of Elephant Haven was born.
Sofie has a heart for animals and is very passionate and motivated about the project, she has a sensitive nature and a respect for both humans and animals.