About us


Co-founder & Operations Director
Tony Verhulst

Tony Verhulst Founder worked at Antwerp Zoo / Planckendael between 1993 and 2015, where he cared for the elephants from 2001 on a full time basis.

From his childhood, Tony became passionate about the life of all animals, in particular the animals that depend on people. Tony has gained international experience with elephants and from this passion and knowledge the idea of Elephant Haven was born.

He is responsible for the care of the elephants, the development of the habitats and making the care plans for the elephants.


Co-founder & President
Sofie Goetghebeur

Sofie Goetghebeur Founder/Treasurer worked at the Antwerp Zoo from 1993 till 2015.
She has experience in the care of birds, small monkeys, okapi, marine mammals, gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees coming from an animal centre, and elephants.

Sofie has a heart for animals and is very passionate and motivated about this project. She has a sensitive nature and a respect for both humans and animals.

She is partly responsible for the care of the elephants, the development of the habitats and making the care plans. Sofie is also active in the communication department.


Board Secretary
Nick Mertens

Nick Mertens Secretary graduated in paralegal studies and deals with many different fields of law and administrative departments as notary assistant. His experience is very important to expand the network of Elephant Haven and to develop contacts with government institutions. Despite what his training and profession might suggest, he has always had a passion for animals as well. From a very young age he would read anything he could find on animals and he would frequently visit zoos.

His mission is clear and obvious: as many people as possible need to be informed on how animals are coping in the wild in order to create more solidarity and harmony between man and animal.

Nick is devoted to his work as a guide in Planckendael zoo as well as to PACHYDERM through which he daily reaches thousands of people worldwide making them aware of the problems elephants living in the wild are facing. Through the years, he has built an impressive network. He is engaged in science popularisation through World of Zoology and ZOO Logisch.


Deputy Secretary
Lionel Chapelet

Lionel has been working with African elephants in the South of France since 2001 where he is responsible for the "Elephant Sector".

His mission is to manage a team of caretakers and to implement medical training procedures through "Protected Contact".

His application for the Certificate of Competence for both species (Asia and Africa) has been submitted and is currently being reviewed.

Lionel is passionate about elephants and it is their welfare which matters most to him.


Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator.
Louise Potts

Louise Potts is a Business Management graduate and retired Company Director.
Following a career in marketing management, she created her own successful eco brand in 2004, breaking new ground in the delivery of green, sustainable beauty products and contributing profits to both the Woodland Trust and Rainforest Foundation. After selling her company in 2009, Louise concentrated on volunteering in the charity sector with the aim of adding value where she could, at no cost, to the organisations she chose to work with.

It was one such social enterprise, Elephas Paris, that introduced her to EHEES in 2018 and she has never looked back.

Maintaining a long held belief in the principle of sustainability, Louise’s personal passion is elephant conservation and welfare, believing the 2 elements shouldn’t be separated when it comes to protecting this magnificent species.

Louise lives in the UK and divides her time between England and France, where she has a second home with her family.

Louise helps with liaison and strategy development with external parties.


Administrative / Communication Assistant
Christine Friscia-Chavaudra

Christine has been involved in animal welfare for years.

She is co-founder of the association "On/Off-Animals" created in 2014.

Passionate about elephants, she joined Elephant Haven in 2015 where she assists Sofie and Tony in administrative matters, communication and brings her experience in Public Relations.


Patrice Chavaudra

Patrice has been a cameraman for Canal+, TF1, Airbus...

He co-founded the association "On/Off-Animals" in 2014, in order to bring his skills and experience to the service of animal protection associations.

He has been following and accompanying Elephant Haven on a voluntary basis since 2015.


Partnership and Fundraising Assistant
Noemie Allali

Noemie is one of our volunteers who has been very involved with EHEES since 2016.

She brings us her experience in terms of partnerships and fundraising.

Her passion for wildlife has always led her to travel a lot. Her encounters with elephants in nature reserves in Africa have strengthened her deep attachment to the species and her desire to develop protection and education projects.

Like the whole team, her mantra is that it is truly possible to move mountains, despite the obstacles, by being patient and never ceasing to believe.


Marc Heydens

Some things happen by chance, and so it was through reading an article in an animal magazine that Marc came into contact with EHEES.

After a career as an engineer in the chemical sector, he decided to take early retirement at the end of 2015.

Since then, he has been employed full time as the personal butler of a charming cat.

Marc helps with translations.


IT and Technology Owner
Vijayendra V S (Viju)

Viju comes from an IT background and is extremely passionate about nature & animals (specially elephants). Upon knowing about EHEES vision and objectives, Viju is associated with us ever since and dedicated for the cause.

Viju is responsible for IT & Technology in EHEES on a voluntary basis. He is exploring and deploying IT innovations, smart tools to have a better internal collaboration and enable a greater reach to our partners & contributors using the latest technology.