Almost 400,000 people have signed a petition to rehome Britain’s loneliest elephant.
Anne the Asian elephant has not seen one of her own kind for 20 years.
She was rescued after being beaten and forced to do tricks for more than 50 years in Bobby Robert’s Super Circus.
Anne lives in a heated £1.2million enclosure at Longleat Safari Park, Wilts, where she is free to roam as she pleases.
But animal activists, including actress Joanna Lumley, want her moved to Elephant Haven in Limousin, France, so she can mix with other elephants – in the wild, females live in large family herds.
Adrian Lanfear, a former Longleat employee and the man behind the petition, said: “She probably believes she’s the last elephant in existence.”
Anne was rescued in 2011 and her former owner found guilty over a video of her being hit and jabbed with a pitchfork.
But animal welfare lobbyists argue the Longleat move was only supposed to be temporary. They say a warmer climate will be kinder to Anne’s arthritis.
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Longleat said in a statement: “We understand the sanctuary in France 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.”
Jon Merrington, from Longleat, added: “The importance is the distinction with what’s right for Anne the elephant, versus what’s right for an elephant.
“Anne has got a very specific set of circumstances; she’s a very old lady and she’s got arthritis.”
Anne’s health means she is exempt from guidance which says elephants should be with others of their kind.
A second elephant could be brought to Wiltshire to keep her company, but Longleat wants to avoid the possibility of having to halve her enclosure if they don't along.
The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums said its inspectors “are really pleased with her care”.
They added: "Anne is inspected regularly by independent DEFRA-appointed elephant expert inspectors; these inspections show they are really pleased with the care provided by Longleat and the progress Anne is making."
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