She’s so tiny, it’s hard to spot her amidst the towering figures of the other elephants in the Herd of Hope. Slowly but surely navigating her way through the herd and across the topography of the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre, with the tip of her trunk running close to the ground and guiding her, she ambles along with the herd, stopping occasionally to check that her keeper is nearby. Her size, and the relative ease with which she finds her way around the rescue facility is deceptive- not only is Suzy the oldest of the rescued elephants at the centre, she’s also completely blind. At 65 years old and weighing little more than 2,400 kilos, this amazing elephant’s miniature frame is home to a large, and endlessly loveable personality.
Life hasn’t been kind to Suzy. Probably snatched from the wild and separated from her herd and family as a calf, Suzy spent the next 65 years in captivity brutalised at the hands of human beings, suffering endlessly to satisfy the cruel greed of man. At the launch of our Circus Elephant Campaign, when we first found out about Suzy, she had already spent nearly 60 years in the circus, performing and living in dismal conditions of neglect. Her picture was splashed across posters, and she performed painful tricks in unnatural, uncomfortable positions for an ignorant audience, her pain and misery hidden behind the decorations that adorned her weak body.
Suzy needed to be retired from the circus before her aging body gave in to the seemingly endless torture inflicted upon her. Wildlife SOS brought this little elephant to our rescue facility in Mathura in January this year, accompanied by a team of vets and keepers, that couldn’t help but fall in love with their wonderful pachyderm travelling companion.
At ECCC, Suzy blossomed a personality unlike any elephant we’ve seen, with quirks and characteristics so uniquely her own, we can spend hours on end with her- marvelling at the tenacity and strength she displays despite her advanced age. Suzy never fails to inspire.
She was the first to welcome Asha and Lakhi when they arrived at the centre, warmly welcoming them into their new home and into her herd- a calm and reassuring source of comfort to rescued elephants coming front devastating conditions of abuse.
But age, and the infirmities that accompany it, have been catching up with Suzy for a while now. Her body is weakening, as her arthritic limbs grow progressively worse, and her complete lack of an entire set of teeth has made it impossible for her to chew the fodder and fruit that are fed to the other elephants.
We’re determined to make old age easy on Suzy though, and she’s given copious amounts of love and special treatment at ECCC. The keepers prepare Suzy’s meals separately, mashing everything into an easily digestible pulp, and ensure she is never left unattended on walks. Suzy walks slower and for shorter distances than the other elephants, and takes comfort in her keeper’s presence, constantly reaching out her trunk to touch him and reassure herself, knowing that we’d never leave her alone. In the river, Suzy gets a kind hand guiding her across, and coaxing her comfortingly when she seems the least bit apprehensive, even splashing her with the cool river water when she feels too tired to bathe herself.
Suzy’s veterinary care too keeps pace with her age, and the vets prescribe a special set of nutritional supplements and medication to keep her comfortable and healthy, as well as painkillers to ease the ache of her arthritis.
With winter settling in, Suzy’s fragile body is kept warm and snug in a specially designed elephant blanket, while her enclosure, where she spends the nights is provided with a shed whose covered walls keep the chilly winds at bay. When the sun comes up on warmer days, Suzy gets a relaxing bath followed by an invigorating massage with warm sesame oil, infused with clove and garlic.
While we wish that Suzy could have come to our notice earlier, and we could have given her many more years of a free and happy life, we take some comfort in knowing that at least now, she is getting the care and love she deserves and remains the pioneer and precedent for the rescue of circus elephants in India- having been at our centre for the arrival of six more circus elephants, including the youngest elephant at ECCC- Peanut!
Suzy will forever be an important part of the ECCC family, and our staff will continue to dote on her and help her make the most of her free life. You can play a special role in Suzy’s care by sponsoring her HERE.