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Doomed elephants win Yuletide reprieve

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17:11 CET+01:00
Two ailing middle-aged elephants that French officials wanted to put down have been given a Christmas reprieve after an appeal to President François Hollande and an internet campaign to save them.

Baby and Nepal, who both have tuberculosis, had been deemed a threat to other animals at their zoo in the city of Lyon as well as to human visitors since the disease is highly contagious.

But when city authorities ordered them to be put down by December 20, Gilbert Edelstein, the French circus owner who donated them to the Parc de la Tête d'Or zoo, launched a campaign to save the forty-something females.

He even sought the "supreme intervention" of Hollande in a letter to the president, while an Internet campaign to save the Asian elephants gathered 11,000 signatories.

The efforts appear to have paid off. On Monday, local authorities issued a ruling suspending the order to put the elephants to sleep with a lethal injection.

It was not immediately clear if that suspension would become permanent.

Edelstein had argued that when he donated the elephants to the zoo, they were perfectly healthy and he said that if they contracted tuberculosis, it was from the other animals.

"I want them to be treated and returned to me," he said on Friday.

Elephants have a lifespan of 60-70 years.

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