Please sign our petition to help get justice for Laxmi —and for all of India’s abused captive elephants! CLICK HERE TO SIGN.
Note: This blog and petition are NOT about the elephant Laxmi at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre who was rescued from Maharasthra in 2013.
As an organization that rescues and cares for abused, neglected and illegally held wildlife, we are witness to a lot of the heartbreaking suffering that human beings inflict upon our fellow living creatures. Yet the case of Laxmi, an illegally owned 30 year old female elephant in the state of Bihar was horrific to an extent that even we weren’t expecting.
The day we first saw her was the day before she died. She was so thin, with bony limbs angled awkwardly inward, caving under the weight of her own body. She was struggling to remain upright, let alone take a move, and was surrounded by men beating her with spears, bullhooks and sticks, mercilessly ignoring her agony filled cries that echoed off the cold walls of the tiny, dank room she was trapped in. Like most captive elephants in India, she had likely been poached from the wild, stolen from her herd and mother as a calf and denied any chance at a life of freedom. She would have switched hands multiple times, and is believed to have traveled illegally through the country under the guise of a travelling circus – a common method of trafficking illegally obtained elephants in India to escape scrutiny and defy the law. Malnourishment and the stress of captivity proved too much for her, and she began withering away under the cruel confinement and abject abuse of her captivity. Years of abuse and malnourishment had left her body severely weakened, and her bones brittle and compromised. She was thin, with a sunken temple and protruding spine and ribs. She appeared to have had a degenerative skeletal or metabolic disorder, most probably the result of extreme malnourishment. Eventually, her debilitating disease rendered her useless to her owners who left her to die in a room – but continued to torture her mercilessly for no reason. It’s possible that she hadn’t seen another elephant since the day she was captured from the wild.
Unable to bear her suffering, the authorities were alerted immediately, in the hopes that she could be saved from the hellish existence she was being subjected to. The day of her death, the Forest Department arrived to find she had collapsed in the small brick shed in which she had been chained. It was almost as if her fragile body had given up, unable to take another day of abuse. He captors, the only familiar faces in her life albeit those of her abusers, had fled the scene – abandoning her in the last agonizing hours of her life, the final cruelty they could show this poor elephant. Her breathing was labored and forced, her massive body seemed small and shriveled as it lurched with every gasp for breath. She trembled violently in pain on the stone floor, shivering in the cold – her feeble body no longer able to accord her any protection against the elements. Even as our veterinarians desperately guided the local vet and we checked up frequently on her, we prepared to fly a vet in to see to her, hoping against all odds that we could help. Minutes before the flight, she took one final gasp for breath before the life vanished from her eyes and she passed away – abused and terribly alone.
Her final breaths were labored and painful to hear, but we hope she found in death an escape from the terrible life inflicted on her in captivity. We hope she finds peace, without the inhumanity of our race to cause her any more suffering. It breaks our hearts to know we could not get to her in time, but we believe that she deserves justice – even if she never got to see a day of freedom.