Veteran actress Brigitte Bardot has claimed victory after French authorities granted a reprieve for two sick elephants who were set to be put down.

The 78-year-old star, a staunch animal rights activist, had threatened to leave France for Russia over plans to euthanise Baby and Nepal, who are suffering from a suspected tuberculosis (Tb) infection at a zoo in Lyon.

The state watchdog, the Conseil d'Etat, has now decided to call off the execution after ruling there was not enough evidence to prove killing the pachyderms was necessary to prevent the spread of Tb.

In a statement welcoming the decision, Bardot says, "It is a great relief. We do not have the right to have animals put down as a precaution. It is disgusting. Baby and Nepal have been isolated for more than two years, they don't represent a threat to anyone."

Bardot also called for the ageing elephants to be put into specialist care.

She adds, "They are old ladies. Now we have to find them a suitable place, take care of them if necessary and leave them in peace."