Nearly 400 000 people supported a petition calling for an elephant previously circulated to be returned to a reserve.
Anne, the ‘only British elephant’ living at Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire, has not seen another elephant of the same type in almost a couple of decades.
Longleat rescued the Asian elephant in April 2011 after Animal Defends International revealed that Anne was stabbed, forced, and beaten to perform games for Bobby Robert’s Super Circus for over 50 years.
Activists say Anne’s heated £1.2m home in Longleat is intended only as a temporary home to recover and regain strength before finding her permanent home.
But nearly 20 years passed, and Anne still lived alone in the park – a stark contrast to the life she would live in nature when the children lived in large families.
Former Longleat employee Adrian Lanfear, who filed the petition, told ITV Westcountry: “She can believe she is the last elephant in existence.”
Animal activists are now calling for Anne’s transfer to Elephant Haven in Limousin, France, to mingle with other elephants.
They said that France’s warmer climate would be better for Anne’s arthritis, and living with other elephants would improve her quality of life.
But Longleat says Anne’s complex and age-related needs affect her mobility and that her own-built house has all the amenities she needs to live through the rest years.
It warns that introducing her to younger elephants as she gets older could put her at risk of being bullied or physically hurt.
The head of Safari at Longleat, Jon Merrington, added: ‘It’s important to differentiate between what’s suitable for Anne’s elephant and what’s right for it.
“Anne had a particular situation – she was an old lady, and she had arthritis due to old age.”
Regarding Anne’s Wiltshire’s ability to introduce another elephant to the barn, Longleat says they don’t want to risk her space if the two don’t get along and have to separate.
The park denied their decision to keep the most famous animal because of financial motives, pointing out that payers often couldn’t even see Anne. Her heating bill alone was £ 20,000 a year.
In favor of Anne’s removal, animal rights activists argue that the elephant is visible to the public because her enclosure is next to the lair of the safari park.
Many animal rights charities and elephant experts call for an independent welfare assessment of Anne – which they argue Longleat has rejected.
They insisted that if she found it appropriate to travel, there was no reason not to allow her to go to a French sanctuary.
In a statement, Longleat added: “We understand that the sanctuary was put into operation in 2012 but so far, has not really taken care of any elephants and it certainly is not species with complex Anne’s care requirements.
“Anne will be their first and only elephant.”
However, according to the Elephant Haven website, the non-profit organization was established in 2012. Still, the sanctuary was not opened until last year.
Elephant Haven said they are preparing to welcome their three children now that construction is complete.
Anne’s serious health problems mean she is exempt from following the UK Elephant Welfare Group guidelines. This group argues that elephants should be in regular contact with their kind.