Nearly every elephant in captivity has been caught from the wild, snatched from its family and mother by ruthless poachers – and then enslaved for the entirety of its life. The exploitation of elephants is not only horrifying in terms of the mental and physical impact it has on individual elephants in captivity, but also the extreme detrimental effects it has on wild elephant populations, decimating the few remaining elephants that survive in India’s forests. Since 2009, Wildlife SOS has been rescuing elephants from cruel captive conditions and doing everything we can to give them a safer, freer life at our rescue centres, with the overarching objective of changing not just their lives but the fate of elephants in the wild as well. Each rescue teaches us what makes these animals so special, reinforcing our belief that they deserve all they can get by means of protection as a species. 25 rescues later, even as we try to change the lives of these wonderful pachyderms, it is a fact worth reiterating that they have dramatically changed our lives as well. Each story of healing and recovery, each challenge overcome, each quirky unique personality that we grow to know and love, reminds us why we do what we do, and inspires us to continue doing more.
Which is why, on Elephant Appreciation Day, the staff at Wildlife SOS’ Elephant Conservation and Care Centre, Mathura decided to show the delightful elephants in their care exactly how special they are to us, and how much we value and cherish the chance to be a part of their lives.
As the elephants left the sanctuary premises for their morning walk, each herd disappearing into the lush green of the horizon, the staff back at the rescue centre quickly got to work setting up a mammoth surprise for them. Tables were set up and lined with fresh green fodder, and tubs of juicy fresh fruit were emptied over the set up and scattered about to form a huge buffet of watermelons, bananas, muskmelons and pumpkins – all of our elephants favorite fruit treats!
Post their walk, as the elephants ventured slowly back in the direction of the rescue centre, each herd was greeted by a lavishly laid out buffet of deliciousness – and the excitement was tangible! Despite having just been on a long walk, the younger elephants found bursts of excited energy to dart up to the tables and quickly begin picking out their favourites of the treats. Trunks intertwined and a chorus of delighted trumpeting, squeaking and happy rumbling filled the air and sent all of our spirits soaring. We stood back and watched, unable to control the smiles on our faces, as elephant eyes widened with the thrill of all the bright red watermelons, yellow muskmelons and green bananas to pick from, and as powerful trunks maneuvered expertly over the tabletops tossing leaves about and stuffing as much into their mouths as possible.
Older elephants like Asha and Lakhi were careful not to waste anything, making sure to pick up any fruit that tumbled off the table in all the jostling excitement. Peanut and Coconut, the youngest of the herd, took to sticking more fruit into their mouths than they could hold, even as copious amounts of sticky juice trickled down their chins. Our young bull Wally, the friendliest of our elephants, found a comfortable place at the table – sandwiched between the two large tuskers Rajesh and Suraj, intermittently patting the two bulls on either side of him, as if looking for reassurance that the expansive buffet wasn’t just a fabulous dream! With more than enough fruit for them all, our feisty young girls Laxmi, Chanchal and Bijli, who usually bully each other at meal times, managed to forget their competitive streaks and happily eat together as a content trio at the table. As the surprise meal gradually came to an end, with Phoolkali picking up every last morsel on the table, Maya seemed to get distracted by the staff standing by, reach out her trunk to them as if to say thank you!
All the elephants seemed to have a wonderful time, and it made us extremely happy to watch them enjoy the feast we had laid out for them, as a show of appreciation for all the joy they bring to us every single day! CLICK HERE to catch a glimpse of them enjoying their mammoth meal.