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Monday, April 4, 2011

Welcome to your new home, Anne! She arrives safely at Longleat refuge

By Claire Ellicott and Nick Fagge

Home at last: The 59-year-old elephant is greeted by staff at Longleat where she will move into a six acre enclosure

Britain's last circus elephant officially retired yesterday as she arrived at her new home at Longleat Safari Park.

Anne, 59, left the squalid metal compound she has lived in for the past half century and moved to a six-acre enclosure.

It comes after the Daily Mail revealed secret footage of her Romanian groom beating her and stabbing her with a pitchfork.

Anne arrives at Longleat in Wiltshire after leaving the metal compound in Northamptonshire. She was transported in a convoy under police escort

In transit: Anne, the last circus elephant in the UK, arrives at Longleat Safari park after she was finally freed from Bobby Roberts Super Circus

Anne, who has arthritis, left her quarters in Polebrook, Northamptonshire, early yesterday under police escort.

She was transported to the Wiltshire park in a convoy with a vet and elephant specialist.

Jonathan Cracknell, director of animal operations at Longleat, in Wiltshire, said: ‘Anne was absolutely fine on the trip. She is settling in well and is very curious and already exploring her new home.

‘Her condition is improving all the time and she is responding well to pain relief and can walk much better than she previously could.’

A coalition of animal welfare groups came together to help rehome Anne, the oldest elephant in Europe.

She will now live in an enclosure with a herd of rhinos and will have the run of a 13-acre paddock, meadows and water pools if her arthritis allows.

Bad memory: Anne will be hoping to put the nightmare beatings behind her as she settles into her new home

Violence: Screengrab from footage of Anne being violently beaten around the head, legs and body with a pitchfork and other implements

Shocking: Footage was taken inside an elephant shed at Bobby Roberts' winter quarters which saw Anne being attacked by a worker

Bobby Roberts Super Circus, the elephant's former owner, agreed to the handover after a Romanian employee was secretly filmed kicking the arthritic elephant and striking her with a pitchfork. He has now left the company.

Tim Phillips, campaigns director for Animal Defenders International (ADI), the charity which conducted the filming, said: 'Without doubt it is the worldwide outpouring of public horror that has forced the circus to hand over this elephant.

'She was deemed fit to travel by the vet on Friday and preparations to move her were made as quickly as possible.'

He said the severely arthritic elephant had been left 'stressed and traumatised' by her treatment but was otherwise unharmed. He said no money changed hands between Longleat and the circus.

Everyone is overjoyed that Anne is safe and we shall look forward to her having a bright future in her final years,' he said.

'Longleat is a place of safety for her while she is assessed on whether she should move somewhere where she will have more contact with other elephants.'
Mr Phillips added: 'The priority at the moment is getting her as fit as possible.'

Suffering: Images showed Anne the elephant being hit 48 times - hardly just reward for her busy schedule performing at the circus

Sorry sight: Animal Defenders International also believed that Annie had a poor feeding regime

ADI suspected Anne had been subject to mistreatment for up to 10 years until the charity secured footage of her abuse.

He said Mr Roberts helped load the elephant on to the specialist transporter this morning.

Longleat had spent the week since the footage's release bringing a large disused elephant enclosure into use. Anne will be placed under round-the-clock observation for at least a week by a team of three keepers. It is hoped she will be on view to the public in due course.

The charity is now taking advice from lawyers on bringing a private prosecution against the circus under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.



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