Elephant Haven European Elephant Sanctuary (EHEES)

Justine Frederic
11 March 2022

Welcome to the very first European sanctuary for retired elephants.

What if the future includes more and more sanctuaries?

After working with wild animals in zoos, Sofie Goetghebeur and Tony Verhulst decided to create the Elephant Haven European Elephant Sanctuary (EHEES) in order to offer a peaceful retreat to elephants. An innovative idea in Europe, they wanted to bring this concept, which can be found in Brazil, the United States, Africa and Asia, closer to home. 

Animal welfare, a subject of debate today, is at the heart of government decisions. So much so that many European countries, including France, have banned the use of wild animals in circuses. This haven of peace welcomes old elephants from zoos or circuses, unable to return to the wild.

A long-term project

This project was not the easiest to create. First of all, they had to choose the most suitable place to set up the infrastructure and welcome the elephants in the best conditions. Sofie and Tony (her partner and co-founder) chose the Limousin (France), a vast region that remains green all year round with plenty of water and hay. This refuge was made possible thanks to the many volunteers and professionals and the support of major associations, including the Brigitte Bardot Foundation and World Animal Protection. But also companies and organizations from all over the world.

A long awaited arrival

A few months ago EHEES welcomed its very first pachyderm named Gandhi. This 53 years old female came straight from the zoo of Pont-Scorff to spend some beautiful days in Haute-Vienne. Several months of adaptation are necessary for the elephant to get used to his new environment and his caretakers. Since her arrival, the whole team is delighted to see Gandhi’s progress. Today, she is gradually regaining her natural behavior and is moving freely in her living space.

In addition to taking care of Gandhi, the team makes a point of respecting nature by recreating a wild ecosystem in which birds, butterflies and other small animals are mixed. For Sofi and Tony, it is a pleasure to see the robins or the butterflies fly, it is a true reconnection to nature. Moreover, by leaving the plants as they are, they participate in the preservation of this ecosystem. Without nature, mankind will be lost. 

Outlook for the future

Although it is not “yet” open to the public, you have the opportunity to volunteer to help with the installation of new structures and the daily maintenance of the site. Eventually, the owners hope to create educational and awareness programs for the general public to learn about the pachyderms. The priority remains the reception of new residents so that they can socialize, find their natural instinct within a herd and quietly enjoy their retirement.

You can at any time support the association which depends on material and financial donations or foster Gandhi and thus support the needs of the sanctuary and the elephant. The whole team is waiting for you with open arms and trunk in the air.


8 impasse du Serpolet, 
83136 Rocbaron, France

+33 6 37 31 85 54

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