So what happened to Anne the elephant after she packed her trunk and left the Bobby Roberts circus?

Simon Usborne meets the Asian elephant rescued from a life of drudgery and abuse

Eighteen months after Anne the elephant packed her trunk and said goodbye to the circus, her arthritic rear legs drag slightly as she walks, and her skin is creased and leathery.

But she seems to be as aware of her advancing years – she’s 60 – as she is her celebrity.

Shuffling around her paddock at Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire, she tears up salad-bowl portions of grass, snorting between mouthfuls.

Last week, Anne made headlines again when her former owner, Bobby Roberts, was convicted of abuse charges after footage had emerged of a groom beating her. Roberts was given a conditional discharge and his wife, Moira, was cleared.

As Anne ends her days in peace, what might she be thinking? She is close enough that her spittle reaches my shoes, but her eyes reveal little of one of the biggest brains in the animal world. Aristotle said the elephant “surpasses all others in wit and mind”.

“To be honest,” says Andy Hayton, a keeper here, “she’s probably thinking p*ss off and let me eat my grass.”

She might not care but Anne is Britain’s most famous beast. Russell Crowe and Sir David Attenborough have been to see her, along with thousands of visitors seeking glimpses of Europe’s oldest elephant (they can live as long as humans).

“She has a huge personality,” Hayton says. “More so than a lot of people I know, not naming names. She can also be awkward, like a four-tonne mother-in-law, but you just look at her and think, God, the things you’ve seen, the memories you must have.”

As Britain’s last circus elephant, Anne was for for years the unwitting pawn in a battle between animal rights groups and an industry steeped in tradition. It came to a head in March last year when undercover filming showed her being chained up and beaten with a pitchfork.

The Roberts have always denied abuse (the groom returned to his native Romania, and has not been traced) but the film caused such outrage they agreed to give her up.

In security usually afforded a high-profile prisoner, Anne was escorted by police to Longleat. When she had been the subject of earlier campaigns, Roberts said: “If Anne was taken away from her surroundings and the company of those she loves, she would quite simply pine away and die.”

Anne is thriving. Medication has steadied her arthritis and she has the run of her paddock, as well as a yard and a “granny annex” in the rhino house. She is only scared of her nearest neighbours, the pelicans, who she “absolutely hates,” Hayton says.

She rolls in mud, digs and loves chocolate and wine gums (“same as any old lady,” Hayton says). After a morning bath she spends the day outside, where prefers the cold and loves rain. Her new freedom means she is also building muscle.

Longleat hopes to give sanctuary to other elephants in a new house for which the park is raising funds. For now, however, Anne is Queen.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
England can win the Ashes – and Elvis Presley will present the urn

England can win the Ashes – and Elvis will present the urn

In their last five Test, they have lost two and drawn two and defeated an India side last summer who thought that turning up was competing, says Stephen Brenkley
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)