In January and February 2021 many reports about Anne appeared in the media in which journalists repeated what they were told by Longleat without question and didn’t present the calls of our campaign. This resulted in very one-sided accounts.
In response to the increased attention on Anne, Longleat posted a new FAQ section about her on their website. We address their points below:
Q: Why is Anne not with other elephants?
- Anne has significant mobility issues as a result of her arthritis and a degenerative joint disease in both her rear legs.
AFE: Anne’s arthritis is not disputed, however this is not an argument for Anne living alone. We question why Anne is not provided with a hydrotherapy pool that would relieve her aching limbs and arthritic pains. Instead, she has a freezing cold pool that she rarely uses.
- Risk of injury/aggression and not being able to get away from other elephants due to her age and condition.
AFE: Elephant Haven European Elephant Sanctuary (EHEES) has addressed this fully in a statement they issued to ease Longleat’s concerns on this point. The range of measures put in place by the sanctuary ensure that Anne would never be put in a position where she would risk being bullied. Any introduction would be done at her own pace, and if she decided she did not want to interact then she could remain in her own space, with the option of vocal communication. EHEES wrote:
‘If Anne were to be relocated to the sanctuary now, she would have the environment all to herself, giving her time and confidence to adapt to her new surroundings and caregivers, before the arrival of other elephants. Each elephant will have its own unique set of circumstances and we are able to anticipate and cater for an individual elephant’s needs appropriately and with total dedication.’
- Anne has formed an extremely close bond with her keepers whom she trusts and relies upon. They are her human family.
AFE: This statement is often given by people from circuses or zoos about their animals being family members; it was also said by Moira and Bobby Roberts, Anne’s former circus owners before she was rescued from the abuse she received while under their care.
The idea that elephants are close to their keepers and are in some way emotionally damaged if taken away from them is not proven. Elephants do not choose their keepers, their keepers are not there 24 hours a day; in Anne’s case, we’ve been reliably informed that her keepers spend just a few hours a day with her. If a keeper leaves employment, a new one comes along; Anne has had many keepers in her time at Longleat. Any elephant moving to EHEES will have the opportunity to bond with her new carers like any other captive elephant does. EHEES will be devoted solely to the elephants; the sanctuary founders will be living onsite, and highly trained staff will give Anne specialist care and round the clock attention. They would not have to leave Anne to go and look after other animals, as happens at Longleat. The real opportunity is the potential for Anne to bond with another of her own kind. There is no substitute for that. Elephants are not, and never will be, companion animals to humans.
- She also shares her home with a trio of Nubian goats. While she may not have the company of other elephants, she is not alone.
AFE: Goats cannot replace the companionship of another elephant. Even a Longleat inspector acknowledged that she shows no interest in the goats!
Q: Does Anne have appropriate facilities or enrichment activities?
- She does. Anne has excellent facilities, and enrichment activities such as a bathing pool, scratching opportunities, an outdoor shelter for shade, shower and mud wallows – this is in addition to the activities her keepers regularly carry out not only to keep her mentally stimulated but also, for example, to strengthen her trunk.
AFE: Anne does have a large barn that is heated and also has a small outdoor enclosure.
There is little evidence that Anne uses her pool and this is even stated in the 2018 report:
‘It is true that Anne does not utilise the pool very often.’
This could be due to her not feeling confident on the slope or perhaps to the very cold temperature of the water; whatever the reason, it is inadequate for her needs.
Anne’s pool at Longleat is an enclosure that she can’t see out of, with cold and uninviting water. Is this the best Longleat can give her? (Credit: Longleat)
Scott Blais, an expert in elephant behaviour and founder of Global Sanctuary for Elephants says:
‘Elephant Haven will encourage a higher level of activity and exploration and initiate intensive therapy to further elevate her physical recovery. Solitary elephants are frequently under-stimulated, leading to a general disinterest in artificial enrichment items which can promote the degradation of physical health’.
Dr Keith Lindsay, a biologist with over 30 years’ experience in elephant research and conservation, said ‘Captive facilities do often offer enrichment to try and “make up for this lack of interesting environment”‘. He also acknowledged that Longleat has attempted to make Anne’s enclosure ‘better’. But he concluded ‘it’s not enough’.
- Utilising the forestry team on the Longleat estate, Anne’s enclosure both inside and out is regularly adapted and changed to bring in new and stimulating trees, branches and browse (leaves, twigs and other high growing vegetation).
AFE: There are no live trees in Anne’s enclosure (despite the claim of a singular ‘tree’ in the inspection report); she has no option to explore any new surroundings, she is confined to the same small enclosure and the same routine she has had for years, day in and day out. If Anne does want to go outside then she has to face the line of cars that queue up to get a glimpse of her.
Q: Do you allow independent experts to assess Anne and her surroundings?
- We do. Anne’s condition and environment are regularly assessed by independent experts every year to eighteen months. We do not release their names due to the ongoing risk of harassment and abuse from a small but highly vocal group of protesters. Sadly several team members at Longleat have been subjected to abuse. This is not acceptable for anyone.
AFE: In the UK, concerns for the welfare of elephants in zoos fall within the remit of the Elephant Welfare Group (EWG) that BIAZA has been tasked by the Government to convene and administer. Both of these organisations fall under DEFRA. The independent inspectors that Longleat refer to are both EWG and BIAZA inspectors, therefore they are not independent as they both come under DEFRA. We are calling for vets and elephant behaviour experts that are not within the zoo sector or associated with BIAZA.
To be clear: we would like to state that Longleat are not referring to our efforts in requesting a new health assessment for Anne when they speak of harassment and abuse from advocates. We have had very limited communications with Longleat due to their lack of response and resistance to acknowledge any offers of help and advice from top experts in elephant rescue and care. They have still not engaged directly on the offer of a new home for Anne at Elephant Haven in France.
Many people over the years have lobbied Longleat to find Anne companionship of other elephants and have her relocated. We have had no involvement in other people’s activities, and most certainly we have never, and would never, harass or abuse any staff at Longleat, nor any inspectors. Our goal is and has always been to open up friendly dialogue with Longleat, which they refuse to do.
- Longleat fully complies with the Government Zoo licensing which references the best practice management of elephants as outlined in the current Secretary of State’s Standards of Modern Zoo Practice. As part of this, inspections have been carried out. Longleat and Anne’s keepers have been commended on the care and commitment to Anne. It was observed that Anne appeared relaxed in her environment and this was a credit to her team.
AFE: We do not dispute that Longleat and her keepers are committed to Anne; they have given her care over the years and improved her health (and significantly rehabilitated her trunk use). However, Longleat is a zoo, a commercial business. They will always be limited to what they can give Anne, despite their best intentions.
Q: Why can’t she go to ‘Elephant Haven’, the French sanctuary?
- We believe the care and attention Anne receives at Longleat would be very difficult to replicate elsewhere, she is looked after by a team of her own dedicated keepers – for her care only.
AFE: Longleat have not been in contact with EHEES to look at the care Anne would receive there. EHEES currently has the capacity to look after three elephants, which means that all their time is devoted to their care and wellbeing. With more time to devote solely to Anne, EHEES will encourage a higher level of activity and exploration and initiate intensive therapy to further elevate her physical recovery.
Scott Blais says: ‘Caring for older elephants, as with geriatric care for any species, requires near-constant adjustments to diet, supportive supplementation, medical regimens, and an exacting level of attention to subtle shifts and changes. Sanctuaries, by design, exist to provide the nuanced, detailed, and personalized care required to ensure optimal health and comfort of aging individuals. As a final measure before the arrival of elephants, Elephant Haven is preparing emergency response supplies and protocols to ensure rapid response to foreseen and unforeseen medical crises.’
- Anne’s ongoing care at Longleat is privately funded by the business and does not rely on sponsors (her home was originally partially funded by donations).
AFE: An argument could be made that business income is far less secure than lifetime legacies and philanthropic donations. Many NGOs have greater succession planning and longevity than most businesses. (The RSPCA has been going since 1827, relying on ‘sponsors’.) The implication that such groups have any less ability than business-funded enterprises to survive, or to pay for Anne’s care, has no substance. This statement serves only to cast negativity on the funding of Elephant Haven.
- There is a huge risk in transporting her there due to her age and health (arthritis/mobility etc.) The danger of transporting Anne on a long journey with her already reduced mobility would be too great a risk.
AFE: This is why we are calling for an independent assessment of Anne. We have the support of Born Free, Four Paws and Dr Amir Khalil in finding the experts to assess her. If these experts deemed her unfit to travel then we would withdraw our calls for her to relocate. Elephant Haven was not built when Anne was first relocated to Longleat and there were no other facilities available at the time. This is a new opportunity for Anne to live out her days in a sanctuary with the possibility of being with her own kind. If Longleat are convinced that her health issues are so severe that she cannot travel, then another assessor would confirm what they have stated. However if Anne is fit to travel, then Longleat should put her interests before their own and allow her to relocate.
Regarding the ‘huge risk in transporting her’, sanctuaries have been rescuing elephants far older and in much worse physical shape than Anne for many years. Often they’ve been transported over thousands of miles. At Elephant Nature Park in Thailand it is not uncommon for elephants in their 60s, 70s and older to be transported over long distances. They all survived the journey and went on to heal and thrive and live out their days in the best environment possible. Yes, the risks must be assessed, but they must not block in advance any consideration of a move. It’s worth noting that Anne spent much of her life being transported up and down the country on trailers. It doesn’t seem a medically correct or morally fair judgement by Longleat to use a relatively minor condition of arthritis as an excuse not to let Anne go.
- We understand the sanctuary was launched in 2012 but, to date, is yet to actually look after any elephants and certainly not one with Anne’s complex care requirements. Anne would be their first and only elephant.
AFE: Elephant Haven is the first elephant sanctuary in Europe, and its design and construction took place over eight years. They were able to welcome elephants to the sanctuary in 2020, and are currently in negotiations for other potential rescues. Longleat have not been in contact with Elephant Haven, and their comment that the Haven would not be able to look after Anne’s complex care requirements is unfounded. EHEES is a sanctuary for elephants, designed to care for an elephant’s every need, and its staff are experts in elephant care – they do not have hundreds of other animals to care for.
Q: What does Longleat gain from having Anne at the park?
- She is not on public display – as our regular guests will know, you are very lucky to catch even a distant glimpse of Anne!
AFE: Anne is on display, as we saw for ourselves when we went to Longleat and could see her environment first-hand. We saw Anne’s barn as soon as we drove through the safari gates. There is a line of cars that queue up outside her barn, either waiting for her to come out or to look at her if she is outside the barn. Anne did come out of her barn when we were there and we can assure you we were right up close to her.
If she is not on display as Longleat claim, then why can members of the public drive right up next to her enclosure and why did they build Anne’s barn right in the middle of the safari drive? The intention was always to make Anne an attraction for paying visitors.
- We do not use her in any of our marketing activities.
AFE: Anne was tagged as ‘the UK’s last circus elephant’ and became the most famous elephant in the country; her story spread worldwide due to the campaign to rescue her from her life of abuse. She has lots of people that love her and would want to come and visit Longleat to see her. Anne also appears on episodes of ’Animal Park’ which is aired on BBC, and she is brought out for public airings at holidays (last Christmas they made a video of her being shown a Christmas tree with treats on it).
- Longleat was the only facility available to look after Anne at the time of her rescue.
AFE: Longleat did take Anne in because all sanctuaries that offered her a new home were in the USA and the distance was too far for her to travel. Now that Elephant Haven has been built and is a relatively short journey away, this is a new opportunity for her.
- Anne was brought to Longleat with the deliberate intention for her to enjoy a peaceful and safe retirement away from public gaze after decades of performing in a circus.
AFE: Anne now has the opportunity to go to a real sanctuary, with no spectators driving by to stop and stare, and where she will have much more land and the possibility to be with her own kind after 20 years of being alone.
- Ongoing annual cost – Anne is very expensive to keep although we gladly fund her care in its entirety. Costs include food, her dedicated keeper team, veterinary care, osteopathy, medication etc. The cost of heating her large house alone is £20,000 per year.
AFE: The costs for Anne’s expert care at Elephant Haven would be fully met by them.
Q: Why are some people saying Anne needs to move?
- We genuinely understand and sympathise with the strongly held views some people have that, despite all of Anne’s very specific issues, she would benefit from the company of other elephants. However, and very sadly, this is unfortunately not the case.
AFE: Longleat do not give a reason why they think Anne would not benefit from the company of other elephants, other than saying she was bullied by elephants in the circus – but there is no evidence of this! They chose to believe this statement made by circus owner Bobby Roberts, who had kept Anne alone for 10 years and used this reason as his excuse. Even if this were true, elephants in captivity, especially circuses where they are kept in extremely harsh and cramped conditions, trained to do tricks and live in the most unnatural environment, would be under extreme stress and have nowhere to vent their frustration. This is not something that would happen in a sanctuary, and there is no evidence to bear out the claim of bullying.
Elephants are one of the most social animals on the planet. They are herd animals and live in family units; they are nannies to others’ young, they mourn their dead and are highly sentient beings. To say that Anne would not benefit from other elephants is cruel and unfounded. The EWG and BIAZA’s own position statement says that elephants should not be housed alone. In Anne’s report in 2018 the inspector states ‘Action: to continue active review of the situation with regard to Anne and her being a lone elephant, and to engage with the new EWG policy regarding lone elephants. Unless her health precludes it, it is recommended that Anne is integrated into an elephant herd of at least 4 elephants as per the Standards. If not possible then there must be robust justification as to why this is the case, but this must be an exceptional circumstance.’ Even Anne’s current inspectors state that she needs the company of other elephants.
Longleat played elephant’s sounds to Anne in an experiment to see how she would react. They remarked that they’d never seen her move so fast, and that it proved Anne was still very much interested in other elephants. Yet they contradict this in saying they don’t think Anne should be with other elephants, although this argument flies in the face of everything we know about the needs of female elephants.
- Anne is now a very elderly lady, with limited mobility and serious, underlying physical and mental health issues, who has undergone historical bullying; both by humans and other elephants. Uprooting her from familiar surroundings and people she has learnt to trust over more than a decade, and transporting her to a new, unknown location with the prospect of being left in the company of other elephants she does not know, in the hope it will somehow markedly improve her living conditions would appear to be an extremely high risk strategy.
AFE: As addressed above, there is no proof that Anne was ever bullied. We appreciate that Anne is elderly with health issues but there have been many elephants a lot older and in far worse health than Anne. They have been relocated to sanctuaries where they have taken on a new lease on life and thrived. Anne’s mental condition could be aided by the company of other elephants and a new environment and she could begin her healing process. Anne only exists at Longleat, but in a sanctuary she could truly live, yet Longleat are not allowing her to have this opportunity. They have given no consideration to the likely scenario of Anne forming relationships with other elephants if given the chance – the most natural thing in elephant behaviour.
- Attempting to somehow integrate her with other elephants, could be genuinely detrimental to her life. Other, more dominant, elephants could pose a physical and emotional danger to Anne.
AFE: At Elephant Haven each elephant has at least 5 acres at their disposal. Here they can keep out of each other’s sight, and the hills provide mobility stimulation. If Anne did not want to integrate she could remain in her own designated area. Often elephants that are rescued are blind, severely abused physically and emotionally, and with many disabilities. Other elephants in the sanctuaries often become their eyes, and comfort and show the new arrival how to be an elephant again. An aggressive elephant would be handled individually to meet its specific needs, and would never be allowed into a situation where it could harm the other residents.
- There are many people around the world who have read about Anne via various animal welfare organisations. We feel it’s vital everyone has all the information about Anne and her very specific circumstances in order to take a balanced view on what really is in her best interests.
AFE: A balanced view would allow an independent assessment. If everything that Longleat say is true, that would confirm their stated assessment of Anne’s health and wellbeing. To ignore and dismiss the calls of so many respected elephant experts, as well as the concerns of the general public, is failing Anne. If a new assessment deemed her fit enough to travel, she could finally have her happy ending.
With Anne’s 10th anniversary of confinement at Longleat this year , we hope Longleat will do what’s right by her and not waste this unique opportunity that she has to go to Europe’s first elephant sanctuary.
Anne’s outdoor enclosure (outlined in yellow) is surrounded by roads with car traffic.
Comparison of Anne’s space at Longleat (in blue) and the space she would have at Elephant Haven.