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Elephant Eden gets first resident

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Buta the female African elephant, the first elephant to arrive at 'Elephant Eden' at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, in Bristol, as she gets used to her new surroundings

Buta the female African elephant, the first elephant to arrive at 'Elephant Eden' at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, in Bristol, as she gets used to her new surroundings

Buta the female African elephant, the first elephant to arrive at 'Elephant Eden' at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, in Bristol, as she gets used to her new surroundings

An elephant has become the first to arrive at northern Europe's largest purpose-built elephant habitat.

Female African elephant Buta was transported to the new 20-acre site at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, near Bristol, where keepers hope to establish a stable herd.

Buta, who had four months of special training before the move, will shortly be followed by Nissim, a 19-year-old bull.

Former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, a supporter of the Zoo, officially welcomed Buta to her new £2 million home, called Elephant Eden, today.

Speaking at the site, in Wraxall, North Somerset, Ms Widdecombe said: "This is a wonderful facility, this is setting a world standard.

"The elephants will have 20 acres in which they can wander freely. They've got a swimming pool, they've got a very large sandpit, they've got woods, they've got wallows and they've got willows.

"There is nothing that the elephants don't have."

Buta was transported from Knowsley Safari Park, in Merseyside, from where bull Nissim will also be transferred, following nine months of arrangements between keepers.

The pair will be joined by other elephants as the project develops to form a stable herd, which keepers say will "meet the complex social and behavioural needs of each animal".

Noah's Ark, spread over 120 acres, has appointed a new team of experienced elephant keepers and support staff to run the new facility, which has taken five years to build.

Elephant consultant Alan Roocroft, who helped design Elephant Eden, described the facility as a "five-star destination for elephants".

Mr Roocroft said the site would offer "significantly" more space to roam for elephants, giving them freedom to walk several kilometres a day.

"This is what I would consider a futuristic facility," Mr Roocroft said. "It is a facility that offers natural elements for the elephant.

"When we first started talking about the concept, we used the elephant's own biology as the reference for design."

Anthony Bush, director of Noah's Ark Zoo, said the project had been assisted by funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

"Elephant Eden is the result of five years' planning, consulting, designing and finally building what we're confident will be one of the best facilities for elephants in Europe," Mr Bush said.

"We're delighted with the end result - Elephant Eden is a wonderful, spacious environment for elephants and a place in which we're sure they will thrive."

Elephants at the site will be provided with hot showers, soft sand and "24-hour enrichment and stimulation" to keep them active and healthy, Mr Bush said.

Features include computer-automated winch feeders inside a hi-tech elephant barn three times bigger than required by zoo guidelines, he added.

A private area of woodland, grass fields for grazing, mud wallows and a deep bathing pool have also been created for the elephants.

Elephant Eden will be run with renewable energy, making it one of the greenest zoo developments. Solar PV panels will provide electricity and a biomass boiler will heat the elephant house.

PA Media