French court annuls euthanasia order on 2 elephants for suspected tuberculosis

LYON (AFP) - A French court on Wednesday upheld a ruling by the State Council to annul a euthanasia order on two zoo elephants for suspected tuberculosis (TB), and said the initial order was not backed by proper tests.

The plight of Baby, 42, and Nepal, 43, had sparked nationwide concern and film star-turned-animal rights campaigner Brigitte Bardot had threatened to quit the country for Russia if they were killed.

But in February, the State Council granted them a temporary reprieve, and on Wednesday, the Lyon court upheld that, criticising the local authorities for "not undertaking the full range of tests" before ordering that the pachyderms be put down.

The elephants had faced an execution order since last December, when municipal officials in Lyon decided they had almost certainly been infected with TB and warned they could be a threat to the health of other animals and visitors to the Tete d'Or zoo in the city.

After a nationwide outcry and a string of temporary reprieves, the State Council finally lifted the threat of execution by ruling that it was unclear that having the animals put down was the only way to prevent the risk of further infection.

The elephants will now be taken to Roc Agel, a ranch in France belonging to Monaco's royal family in the south-eastern Alpes Maritimes region.

Princess Stephanie of Monaco, another animal rights activist, had earlier offered to take them in.

A spokesman in Monaco said a special enclosure was being built for them with a facility to treat the water used there.