Following the iconic midnight rescue operation of ‘Raju’ Elephant, carried out by Delhi based NGO – Wildlife SOS, it was now Lilly’s turn for freedom, a 35 years old female elephant who was freed from her shackles by a team from Wildlife SOS and the Haryana Forest Department.
Like most wildlife rescue operations, this effort also concluded well after midnight. She was rescued from Sirsa district in Haryana and was transported by the Wildlife SOS team to the Elephant Rehabilitation Center in Ban Santour, Haryana; managed by Wildlife SOS in collaboration with the State Forest Department of Haryana. This is one of the two elephant rescue centers run and managed by Wildlife SOS in India.
Wildlife SOS Co-founder- Geeta Seshamani said, “This is a victory for the captive elephants in India who like Raju and Lilly are often victims of gross mistreatment and abuse. Lilly has suffered for over 3 decades and now she will be able to lead a healthier and more natural life in the Ban Santour forests. We are grateful to the Haryana Forest department for facilitating the rescue of Lilly in a timely manner so she could be saved.”
Kartick Satyanarayan, Co founder of Wildlife SOS said “Details of Lilly’s initial capture and her captivity are yet to be confirmed, but from the information gathered so far, it appears she was captured as a calf in the north east (possibly Assam or Arunachal Pradesh) and then transported to Bihar where she was sold by unscrupulous wildlife traders at the Sonpur animal fair where she was then sold to traders from Rajasthan. She was possibly used in Jaipur for several years before she was sold on to a man from Haryana. We are delighted that we were able to facilitate her rescue. The man who was abusing Lilly and had her in illegal custody has been arrested. We hope this will set a good precedent for offenders who keep elephants in illegal captivity.”
Lilly was confiscated by the Haryana Forest Department when the man who was using her for a procession failed to produce ownership certificate & other legal documents for the elephant. Throughout her days of misery she was beaten and forced to beg on the streets, merely surviving on what she received from “begging”.
The District Wildlife Officer, Mr. Shakti Singh who was present at the time of the rescue operation said “We contacted Wildlife SOS to inform about Lilly’s plight and the need to rescue her and have her moved to the Elephant Rehabilitation Center. When the offender was unable to produce any documents to prove his legal ownership of the elephant, we took legal action against him under relevant provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.”
The Wildlife SOS team of elephant experts travelled from the Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura to Sirsa in Haryana state to rescue ‘Lilly’ elephant along with the State Forest Department. The team reached Sirsa at midnight to plan the rescue operation and started the rescue efforts in the early hours of the morning. The team including Wildlife SOS veterinarian Dr.Yaduraj Khadpekar who provided medical care for the elephant along the route until she reached the rehabilitation center. A special truck was arranged for transporting Lilly, but initially she was unfamiliar with the vehicle and refused to climb onto the truck. Then the veterinarian administered a mild sedative to the elephant to help her calm down. Following this the team was able to gently coax the elephant to climb into the truck by encouraging her with delicious fruits like water melons and bananas. The challenge was to prevent the elephant from getting dehydrated during the long truck journey for which the Wildlife SOS team constantly showered the elephant with water while also stopping periodically to check her health and give her adequate nourishment.
(Lilly being fed treats on the truck)
Lilly stepped off the truck after a 10 hour journey and walked into her new home where she was welcomed by the Wildlife SOS team and two other rescued elephants who are already housed there.
“Lilly elephant is in poor health and has suffered physical and psychological trauma. It will take her some time to trust humans and participate in activities happening around her. She has severely overgrown nails on her feet indicating a complete lack of foot care, and has a huge swelling on her right shoulder. She also has several wounds on her neck because of the ropes and chains she was constantly wearing. We are carefully calibrating her social interactions with the other elephants at our center. Her medical treatment is under way and we hope that she will start getting better very soon” said Dr Yaduraj – Wildlife SOS Veterinarian.
(Lilly being examined by Dr.Yaduraj)
After over a month with us, Lilly seems to have settled very well at her new home. She is now free at the 400 acre large Elephant Rehabilitation Center in Haryana managed by Wildlife SOS in collaboration with the Haryana Forest Department. She has started interacting with the other two elephants, Erika and Ella at the elephant rehabilitation center and is always pampered by the Wildlife SOS keepers with lots of fruits and treats. They seem to love taking mud-baths and long walks together.
We would like to thank each and everyone of you for all your kind support in making this rescue possible. You can now sponsor Lilly and all our other elephants and get regular updates and pictures of them for just $60 per month by mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org