About us - Members of the board


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.


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.


Frans Goetghebeur

Frans Goetghebeur President (father of Sofie) is a well known author, speaker and translator. For over 40 year he organised events (e.g. the visits of the Dalai Lama to Belgium) and has been the founding father of different interconvictional associations. He is working towards an harmonious and peaceful world and for understanding and collaboration between people and cultures. He will take care of the administration and the contacts with the authorities and with the external world.


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.


Lionel Chapelet

Lionel Chapelet Adjunct Secretary is a caregiver of elephants in the South of France and has been working with African elephants since 2001.

Lionel is responsible for an elephant department and has experience with:

  • Managing a team of elephant caregivers

  • Experience in medical procedures with elephants through protected contact

Lionel is passionate and very interested by this species. All he wants is their wellbeing.