PARIS — Two prominent animal rights groups said Monday they are establishing Europe's first sanctuary for former circus elephants.
World Animal Protection said the sanctuary will be created in collaboration with the charity Elephant Haven in the central French region of Limousin and certain sites will be operational by this fall.
Circuses across Europe use more than 100 elephants in shows.
"There is no place for elephants to retire in Europe and we are so pleased that we are giving them a safe haven," Tony Verhulst, co-founder of Elephant Haven, said in a communique.
A platform at the site will also be built for visitors and tourists to safely watch elephants roaming freely and behaving as they would in the wild.
The groups say the project came about after successful lobbying of the Danish Parliament, which recently announced its commitment to ban the use of wild animals in circuses.
Fourteen other European countries have recently implemented similar bans, many of which come into force this year, according to the groups.
"Denmark's commitment to ban circus elephants is a huge victory for us and is part of a chain reaction across Europe to end the misery and suffering of these majestic animals," said World Animal Protection CEO Steve McIvor.
"These elephants have suffered a lifetime of misery, held in captivity and forced to endure cruel and intensive training to make them 'safe' to interact with people and entertain," he added.