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She's having a ball! Anne the elephant beaten and stabbed by sadistic keeper, enjoys Christmas sanctuary paid for by big-hearted Daily Mail readers


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By Claire Ellicott

Paddle power: Anne’s arthritic legs are rapidly improving and she now weighs almost four tons

There aren’t many humans of her age who would still be up for a game of football on a grey December day.

But 59-year-old Anne the elephant is enjoying a magical new lease of life as she prepares to spend her first Christmas in her new home at Longleat safari park – courtesy of generous Daily Mail readers.

Yesterday she splashed in her paddling pool and played with a huge red ball, a festive gift from a wellwisher who sends money every month.

This time last year, Anne suffered a lonely, pitiful existence as Britain’s last circus elephant. Beaten and stabbed with a pitchfork by her sadistic keeper, her misery was exposed in March after campaigners from Animal Defenders International shot secret footage of her being abused.

Mail readers rapidly raised £400,000 to have her moved to Longleat in April. Next month, designs will be finalised for a new custom-built sanctuary there and a planning application is expected to be lodged in February.

Even now, life at Longleat is like an elephant holiday camp. Anne has the run of an 80-acre enclosure and a series of paddocks and meadows.

Under the new plans, she will have a deep water facility, to help her arthritis, and a winter shelter.

When she was first rescued, it was feared her arthritis was so bad she would need to be put down, but now her legs are improving.

Sadistic: The keeper on film attacking Anne which was recorded in secret before exposing her so-called carer

Sickening: Anne's keeper strikes her with numerous objects in the secretly-recorded footage

At a recent health check, she weighed a healthy 8,730lb – almost four tons.

‘She’s getting younger by the day,’ says Longleat chief executive David Bradley.

‘She looks ten years younger than when she first came to us. We’ve been joking that she may last longer than some of us.

‘Her muscle condition has improved and her arthritis is easing and she’s had numerous appointments with the osteopath who says she is doing well.

The Anne fan wall: Cards and letters from the elephant’s many admirers

She seems very comfortable and she has just had her enclosure resurfaced with 200 tons of sand, which will keep her happy for a while.’

Staff at Longleat say the discolouration to Anne’s ears and trunk is the result of previous skin infections healing.

Now Britain’s largest celebrity, she has received scores of Christmas cards and staff at Longleat have created an ‘Anne fan wall’ where they pin up letters from her admirers.

Her new building should be ready in early 2013 and it is hoped that it will become a refuge for other abused elephants.

A whole new ball game: Anne plays with her Christmas present

Anne’s Romanian tormentor has now disappeared. Her former owners, Moira and Bobby Roberts, last month faced magistrates in Corby, Northamptonshire, charged with causing unnecessary suffering and will return to court in June. It is expected that they will deny the charges.

Jan Creamer, chief executive of Animal Defenders International, said: ‘ADI is delighted to have played such a key role with the Daily Mail in securing Anne’s release.

‘Her condition has improved enormously over the last few months now that she is on the right medication, and she goes from strength to strength.

‘We will continue to monitor Anne’s progress and the plans for her future. It is our sincere wish that one day she will benefit from the company of other elephants.’


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