French death row elephants get fresh reprieve

LYON (AFP) - Two ailing zoo elephants, whose death sentence led Brigitte Bardot to threaten to go into exile in Russia, have been given another reprieve to await a court decision on their future.

Baby and Nepal face being put down because they have been diagnosed with tuberculosis and deemed a threat to the health of other animals and visitors to the Tete d'Or zoo in the eastern city of Lyon.

The municipal order delivered last month to euthanise them prompted an outcry that resulted in them being granted a temporary reprieve over Christmas.

Then cinema legend-turned-animal-rights-campaigner Bardot chipped in. She threatened to leave France for Russia if the reprieve was not made permanent - emulating fellow actor Gerard Depardieu's adoption of Russian nationality and move into tax exile.

Even President Francois Hollande was dragged in after the head of the circus who a decade ago donated the two pachyderms to the zoo wrote to him to ask him to intervene to save the pair.

Mr Hollande refused, but on Wednesday there was some good news for the Asian elephants when it emerged that their initial reprieve had been prolonged for an extra 40 days.

Officials made the decision last week in order to keep the animals alive for a ruling on an appeal by the circus owner to the Council of State, France's supreme court for administrative justice.

That ruling is due in February.

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