Sometimes we look to others for inspiration and other times it shows up when we least expect it. We met our muse on the scorching tarmac on a very hot summer day on the Delhi Agra Highway in 1998. Champa, a beautiful Asian elephant, clearly needed our help. Meeting her all those years ago planted the seed that we needed to do something to help elephants in similar situations across India.
This month marks one year since Champa passed away. Those of us left behind, both human and elephant alike, miss her terribly, as she was the matriarch of Elephant Haven. She had a kind and forgiving spirit which she showed towards people, the species that had for decades abused her and neglected her needs. Champa lived close to 40 years with little joy and much suffering. She looked tired and not too well, and we determined right then that we would do whatever we could to give her a better life. We continued to stop by and check on her and in 2002 began treating the worsening wounds on her legs. In 2009 we were finally in a position to rescue her. She arrived at our new facility and ‘Champa’s new life of being spoiled and loved replaced her old one of deprivation immediately. Champa gave us her own gifts, including forgiveness and the ability to allow us to share in her joy by watching her play. Sometimes, we watch old videos of her playing in the pool, and it gives us great satisfaction that we did the right thing by rescuing Champa. Unfortunately, the hard life she had previously had was impossible to overcome and she passed on at our rescue center. It is a year after Champa passed, and we owe her great gratitude for inspiring us to take on the suffering of India’s elephants. Because of Champa we have decided to be bold and open another rescue center to help others like her. We have also rescued six additional elephants, two of whom came out of terrible circuses. I don’t know that we could have done this without Champa’s inspiration.
You can honor Champa’s life by taking a pledge to never ride on a captive elephant, and by refusing to allow the suffering she went through to be experienced by other elephants. Also, next time you pass a jasmine flower, think of Champa. ‘Champa’ also means jasmine flower, and we certainly loved watching her bloom in her new life, thanks to you.