Longleat Safari and Adventure Park is to start work on a major new purpose-built haven for Anne the elephant.
It will include a 994-square-metre heated accommodation area with deep sand floors, natural sky light panels, automated feeding systems and a specialist treatment area.
An extensive 3.9 acre outdoor space will feature a large grassy paddock, rocks, log piles, a giant browse frame, sand pits and use of a water pool all year round.
The new £1.2m facility will offer a permanent home for Anne, Britain’s last circus elephant, who has been cared for at Longleat since April 2011.
Since arriving at Longleat, Anne has been under the full-time care of three highly-experienced keepers and has received specialised veterinary care, osteopathy and ongoing medical treatment.
Following the launch of a public campaign, Longleat has received a significant level of support to the development of Anne’s new haven.
Additionally Longleat plans to personally invest £50,000 a year for the next five years to develop and support international programmes with a focus on improving the welfare of captive and working elephants around the world.
To ensure the new refuge met the highest of standards, Longleat arranged a two-day seminar which was attended by elephant advisors, veterinarians, leading sanctuary experts and individuals from animal welfare groups from around the world.
They concluded Longleat provided the best possible option for the sixty-year-old elephant to live out the remainder of her life.
Longleat’s Director of Animal Operations, Jon Cracknell, said: “Anne’s remarkable improvement in both health and overall physical condition is due to the environment and care she has received since arriving.
“The aim of the seminar was to ensure we undertook a full and frank assessment of what was best for Anne. This new development will provide her with the very best facilities to live out the rest of her life in comfort.
“We’re pleased to have got such widespread backing for the new facility and we are aiming to begin work in the next few weeks,” he added.
Having consulted with leading industry experts at the seminar it was concluded that it was in the best interest of Anne’s health due to her age for her not to have a companion. Concerns were expressed that mixing her with other unfamiliar, new elephants could be detrimental to her health and wellbeing.
If a situation did arise where an elephant needed rescuing and rehabilitating, Longleat would be open to cases on an individual basis. An assessment would take place with external parties to ensure the correct decisions were made in Anne’s best interest.
The seminar also concluded that it would not be suitable to site a larger elephant sanctuary at Longleat and alternative locations in warmer climates would need to be investigated.