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Champa, the matriarch of Elephant Haven, passes on

Champa enjoys her bath“Champa” -  The word means a sanguine, brilliantly fragrant flower. Not so off the mark for the gentle elephant, Champa.

Champa spent her entire life, one of slavery, working even with tumours on her legs, internal injuries and as an object to be utilized for tourism, so her owner could be rich! When we rescued Champa, we wanted not to ‘own’ her, but to give her a childhood back.

She left us in September for her heavenly abode, passing on to happier peaceful pastures. We are grateful to our supporters who made it possible for Champa to live her last fifteen months enjoying a pampered life at Elephant Haven. Champa and Bhola - friends forever

Her busy schedule at Elephant Haven started with a gentle ambling walk with her trained mahouts - Munna and Baboo in the morning, followed by chewing on endless amounts of lush green grass followed by a never ending supply of sugarcane. In between her main meals she took long dips in the pool, finishing off with snacking on rather copious amounts of apples, bananas, sun melons, musk melons and water melons. Her afternoon siesta would witness four trained WSOS staff massaging her feet with warm oil to help her abused and aging feet.

Our cemented friendship began at a roadside hotel nine years ago, growing into a strong bond of trust and care. When we first saw Champa she was nothing like the elephant she'd later become. Overworked, undernourished and in pain, this old elephant was forced to plod along the Delhi-Agra highway, a tool for tourism. It took constant care, unending TLC, truck-loads of medication and plain belief to bring back the elephant from the broken spirit. We were determined to give Champa the life she deserved and we did our best. With the support of some dear friends at One Voice France, HSI Australia, Joan Pearson, Muriel, we created Elephant Haven. She was the inspiration and the soul of the place, a real matriarch in letter and spirit.

Champa had come a long way from the gaunt giant we rescued, to a happy frolicking big girl who lived her childhood years much later in life. Her charm was contagious as were her vocalizations – her gentle stomach rumbles of contentment would speak a thousand words. She was smart, funny, extremely patient and a child at heart. With some hilarious games like "chase the mahout" or "let’s soak the mahout" and "I want my food right now" in her repertoire, she displayed a sure sense of humour. It was a real treat to watch her in the pool as she sprayed us all, with a twinkle in her eye, making sure we didn’t feel left out. Her rescue showed us what happiness and joy looked like in an elephant's eye and her gentle rumbles and trumpets of satisfaction and contentment still ring in our ears. She was always the first to receive a newly rescued elephant and would make sure it knew it was in safe hands. Her energy was exhilarating.

“Champa is the true founder of Elephant Haven,” says Kartick Satyanarayan, Co founder of Wildlife SOS. “She lives on in our hearts. She prodded us on to take on the cause of suffering elephants. We are now even more determined to not let her down and will help as many elephants as we possibly can.”

Our sincere gratitude goes out to all of you who helped Champa live out her life in dignity and peace, and with the companionship of other elephants.

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