Elephant Haven The Beginning

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Elephant Haven,  The first retirement home for elephants in Europe.

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Everybody loves elephants, love to watch them in the wild, on T.V., in a zoo, in a circus….

But where are elephants going to when they are too old to be in the circus, when a country is banning the wild animals in circuses or when they are too old for a zoo or not fitting in anymore in the breeding program?

A question that needs a solution.

But who are we?

Me, Tony Verhulst and my partner Sofie Goetghebeur  born in Belgium have been working for more than 20 years in a zoo,

I for more than 14 years with elephants .


From my childhood I felt involved in the fate of all animals, in particular the animals that depend on people. During the 14 years that I worked with elephants you get a very close relationship with them. Elephants are extremely strong so you need a lot of respect for them. But gradually you feel a connection. Elephants are forgiving, but never forget (and they always retain their confidence, what they have experienced.) They know emotions such as jealousy, sadness and protection. Like us, they sometimes have a bad day. I still learn every day. I love all elephants in the world. Hence my eagerness to realize the dream of Elephant Haven.

Sofie worked with all kinds of animals, from okapi’s, birds, sea lions to the amazing gorillas and chimpanzees.  Sofie has a heart for animals and is very passionate and motivated about this project. She is a sensitive person, appreciating nature and peace for humans and animals.


Sofie is raised around animals, “they are my best friends”. “It is due to the animals that I have learned that you can say so much with body languages instead of verbal language, but a lot of people have lost the basics”

It was during working in the zoo that we realized that there should be a sanctuary for elephants in Europe. There are 2 in the United States and of course in Asia and Africa but not one in Europe.

At this moment there are still more than 100 elephants in circuses around Europe. Returning them back to their land of origin is not always possible, but creating a safe haven for them is.

So then our research begun…


Tony and Sofie

Founders of Elephant Haven


Elephant Haven

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