The plans, which have been submitted for approval, include a 994-square-metre heated accommodation area with deep sand floors, natural sky light panels, automated feeding systems and a specialist treatment area.
An extensive, 10-hectare outdoor space will feature a large grassy paddock, rocks, log piles, a giant browse frame, sand pits and the ‘Thirst Pockets Elephant Spa’ which will give the elephants a pool to utilise.
The new sanctuary will offer a permanent home for Anne, Britain’s last circus elephant, who has been cared for at Longleat since April 2011 after secretly filmed footage showed her being abused by her former groom.
Longleat CEO, David Bradley, said: “We have been working hard on this project ever since Anne first arrived with us and have been overwhelmed by the generosity and support of the public.
“Donations both from visitors and members of the public will help part-fund the multi-million-pound development with the majority of the costs being met by Longleat.
“As part of the plan we have consulted extensively with other animal collections around the world as well as welfare experts, English Heritage and Natural England.
“It has been an incredibly complex and highly-detailed process but we are confident the proposals we have submitted will deliver an elephant rescue and rehabilitation facility which will utilise cutting edge knowledge to provide for the specialist needs of the elephants.”
The sanctuary can provide accommodation for up to four elephants, including Anne, however Longleat will not be re-homing other elephants until the new building has been completed.
Longleat’s Director of Animal Operations, Jon Cracknell, said: “The over-riding ambition is to provide the best habitat possible to encourage natural behaviours both indoors and outdoors.”
Mr Cracknell believes there are currently around 55 circus elephants in Europe.
“It will be a huge step forward creating the sanctuary here at Longleat. Although we cannot take in every elephant, we aim to lead by example and provide a facility to help rescued elephants which can be replicated elsewhere,” he added.
Since arriving at Longleat, Anne has been under the full-time care of three highly-experienced keepers and has received specialised veterinary care, osteopathy and ongoing medical treatment.
Keepers have been astonished with the improvement in the health of Anne, who is one of the oldest elephants in Europe and approaching 60 years. There has been a complete transformation in the condition of her skin, feet, trunk, ears and general muscle tone.
Her current home features a large grassed paddock, heated indoor accommodation, giant sandpit, tree rubbing posts, rocks, a sun shelter and several other enrichment features.
It is hoped that, once approved, work will begin on the multi-million pound sanctuary later this year with a proposed completion date in 2014.