Circus elephants were given a retirement home that sets new world standards

In May 2020, the last four circus elephants in Denmark were transferred to a large, newly established sanctuary in Knuthenborg Safari Park on the island of Lolland.

Since 1962 Animal Protection Denmark has advocated for a total ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. In 2018, the work finally bore fruit when former Minister for Environment and Food, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen announced that there was a political majority in favour of a ban on keeping wild animals in circuses.

The four remaining circus elephants in Denmark were therefore able to retire and were finally tranferred to their new permanent home in Knuthenborg Safari Park. Here the elephant enclosure sets completely new standards for the future. The welfare of the elephants has thus been a top priority in the design of the large outdoor area, called the Elephant Plain, as well as the indoor facilities.





The Elephant Plain is the most advanced elephant enclosure in Europe and will also serve as inspiration for future elephant enclosures around the world. In the giant facility, the size of which is equivalent to 21 football pitches, the elephants enjoy opportunities to live out their natural behaviour. They can bathe in water, sand and mud and they are able to socialize with each other. The elephants' foraging instinct is also stimulated as food is spread around the facility so they have to search for it. In the indoor facility, the elephants sleep on large piles of sand and have the option of a hot shower and a foot treatment if needed.

During the period from the withdrawal of the elephants from the circus performances until the facility was completed in Knuthenborg Safari Park, Animal Protection Denmark was responsible for ensuring the welfare of the elephants, including activation, feed and access to fresh air and daylight. Upon transfer to Knuthenborg, the elephants were first introduced to their 2000 square meter stable in order to get used to each other and the new surroundings, as well as get to know their new keepers. On May 30, the 13,000 square meter outdoor facility, The Elephant Plain, was inaugurated under great media attention. The design of the facility has been developed in cooperation between Animal Protection Denmark and Knuthenborg Safari Park. The elephants have settled very well in Knuthenborg and enjoy retirement life in the spacious surroundings.