We are sure that with your elephant memory, you do remember Elephant Haven? The first European sanctuary for pachyderms that our Foundation chose to support. Well, we are delighted to announce that it has welcomed its first resident, Gandhi. The 52-year-old retiree moved into her new home in October, much to the delight of Sofie Goetghebeur and Tony Verhulst, the founders of the centre. And ours, it must be said!
So what about Gandhi’s story?
While elephants are recognised to be social species that like and need to live in groups, Gandhi’s story is one of solitude. Born in the wild in Asia (most likely in Thailand), the elephant spent most of her life in zoos. The Givskud zoo in Denmark from 1973 to 1998, and the former Pont-Scorff zoo (now Les Terres de Nataé) in France.
Years of loneliness
These years of captivity were marked by complicated experiences for the elephant, who had to be isolated due to difficulties in cohabiting with her fellow animals. Faced with this situation, which was detrimental to the animal’s well-being, the new management of Terres de Nataé sought to offer Gandhi a new life, one that would allow her to gradually come into contact with other elephants and contribute to improving her health. Direction Limousin!
A true paradise for retired pachyderms
As what better place than Elephant Haven to allow this young retiree to recover and reconnect with some form of balance? A true haven of peace of 28 hectares of semi-liberty. Rolling hills. Abundant vegetation. Personalised care and top-range service provided by Sofie and Tony, the experienced and passionate Belgian couple of carers who created this refuge.
A key landmark. For everyone
The arrival of this first resident was dreamed of, prepared for… and awaited. Perseverance and patience have finally paid off.
It is indeed the result of five years of administrative procedures and colossal work undertaken by Sofie and Tony, with the precious support of a team of volunteers. All this effort contributed to the approval of Gandhi’s home by the EAZA Species Committee, a crucial validation in the process.
A shared adventure
This fundamental step for Elephant Haven is also the result of a fruitful collaboration between several stakeholders who worked together to offer Gandhi a more fulfilling home: Les Terres de Nataé, which sets the well-being of its animals as a priority, the Brigitte Bardot Foundation as a major supporter of the sanctuary, The Elephant Sanctuary Tennessee, which facilitated the transport of the elephant, a particularly delicate undertaking due to her great age and arthritis.
It is also thanks to the partner organisations and individual donors that Gandhi will be able to evolve in a qualitative place that meets all her needs. Equestrio Foundation has hence contributed financially to the food, heating and logistics of the centre.
A challenge taken up!
Because, let’s not forget, “elephant hospitality” is quite a logistical challenge! As cute as they may be, pachyderm prove to be very demanding residents. They require continuous attention, constant stimulation (the elephant is very bright 😊) and substantial resources – no less than 100,000 euros per year for care and food. Hay, above all, even if we have been told that Gandhi is very fond of watermelons, cut nettles, plums and parsley. Her little indulgence? Lemons. You shouldn’t have to give up anything when in retirement!
It seems that Gandhi has made herself beautifully at home in her new life. It is even reported that she is transformed! She is rediscovering how to live in harmony with nature before being able to renew contact with fellow elephants when she will be joined by other residents… which, given the success of this first operation, is likely to happen very soon!
We wish Gandhi a good start to the rest of her life!
Breaking news!!! And, to wrap up on another piece of good news: the Elephant Haven project has exceeded 100% sharing. Equestrio Foundation is therefore renewing its financial support for another year. Thank you all for your commitment and enthusiasm!
 In full name, European Elephant Sanctuary (EHEES)
To watch Gandhi’s arrival, it’s here 👇