What better place than Elephant Haven to launch our new series “Equestrio Foundation in Action”? In the Limousin, you’ll be sure to find plenty of it – action. Alicia Heiniger was able to experience this during her two-days voluntary work at the first European centre for elephants retired from zoos and circuses. We invite you to live this emotion-packed experience in the first episode of “EF in Action”.
The most lovable of pachyderms 💚
Ever heard of Bussière-Galant? Two years ago, to tell you the truth, neither had we. And yet, it has recently become our very own Hollywood! It’s in this small village, located south of Limoges and home to Elephant Haven, that the shooting of the first opus of our new series took place.
So, what’s the pitch? Alicia (our founder), alongside Charlotte and Lolita (Director of Operations and Director of Communications, respectively), set off to meet Gandhi and Delhi, 2 zoo elephants taken in by Sofie Goetghebeur and Tony Verhulst, the founders of the centre. There, deep in the heart of the action, she delved into the harsh and enchanting daily life of the two carers. A way for her to pursue her commitment, beyond financial support, with concrete help on the ground.
Taking care of the elephants, keeping things tidy, feeding, cleaning… these 2 days of volunteering spent in the 38-hectare sanctuary dedicated to the well-being of its residents can be summarized in a single word: action.
In this month of November, nature, decked out in its autumn colors, was undeniably beautiful. But there was not much time to admire it, as Alicia’s main objective was to immerse herself in Sofie and Tony’s life, constraints and pleasures alike! Up close, reality always has a different flavour – this time, that of hay, dirt, sweat and raw animal. Alicia, a philanthropist and horsewoman, is familiar with this daily life. But despite being used to this universe, taking care of two elephants weighing almost 7,000 kg between them and eating 60 kg of hay a day proved to be a new experience for her: “It was as if I had already experienced some of these moments in my daily life with horses, but also as if I was discovering a whole new world. I was extremely surprised by the amount of time, logistics and energy that only 2 elephants can take!”
From sweat to emotions
The word “commitment” takes on a whole new meaning when meeting Sofie and Tony. Alicia got to experience up close their uncompromising dedication and to participate in a daily life with very little respite.
Moments of privileged contact with the animals to feed and take care of them. Moments of discovery, including that of muscles that up until then had been hiding somewhere in her body! Like those awakened to carry and store a week’s supply of fruit and vegetables for the elephants in the cold room, or to cut and bring in wood to heat their stable. Repetitive moments, also, with laborious tasks, necessary for the health of the pachyderms: cleaning and keeping their living environment up and running. Again and again.
And above all, between laughter and tears, moments of sheer emotion, reminding her of the purpose of her commitment.
The impact of our donations
During these two days, we were also able to see the concrete impact of our donations and their essential contribution to the smooth running of a centre where, just as for nature, each link plays a role. As Alicia reminds us, “Each donation counts. But it only counts if it is used wisely and has a measurable impact. By spending time in the field, we’ve been able to experience the effectiveness of our support, and this is a great satisfaction for the whole team!”
Experience the adventure with us!
Beyond a unique immersion in the life of an elephant living in a paradise for retired pachyderms, these 2 days of volunteering have been a true human adventure, shared with inspiring people who give substance to Equestrio Foundation’s convictions. “Sofie and Tony dedicate their lives to these elephants. It’s often a tough job, but I’ve seen how their passion for these animals can make it so worthwhile. Their daily reward is to see Gandhi and Delhi thriving in an environment that is in harmony with their true nature. They are advancing their cause and we are happy to contribute to this.”
We captured all these moments for you thanks to our passionate and committed videographer, Bertille Fonteneau, who is donating this episode to Equestrio Foundation. We thank her warmly for her generosity and for contributing, with us, to making visible the invisible. 💚
You too would like to live these special moments? It’s all in the box with “EF in Action”!
Photographs, Bertille Fonteneau