The Race to Save Bijlee

June 24, 2013 | By dw
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By Jordan Schaul

A 54 year old former street begging Asian elephant cow is currently being attended to by Wildlife SOS. The staff was deployed to a suburb of Mumbai for emergency rescue earlier this week. The expert team of veterinary health care providers was dispatched following a very public appeal to animal welfare authorities in India by Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan, which also elicited countless requests from supporters like you on Facebook.

The actor had issued a compassionate appeal asking for the ailing working elephant Bijlee’ who collapsed on Tuesday in Mulund and was unable to get up and stand on her own.

On his blog the actor stated that “[he does] believe in this unfortunate incident, and believe that if something can be done for this beleaguered elephant lying on the road in great misery, she will survive and flourish. So let us do our best that we can, for those that suffer, that speak of their misery in a language that we cannot understand, but who we know would understand any help that can be extended to them.”

Bijlee, a gentle and gigantic Asian pachyderm who had been forced to beg on the streets of India for much of her life was observed in a recumbent position, but was standing when Wildlife SOS’s senior staff veterinarian Dr. Yaduraj arrived on the scene. He had traveled overnight from the Agra Bear Rescue Facility (ABRF) to Mumbai specifically to assess the condition of the elephant and treat her if necessary.

Animal activists from NGO AMTM have also been on the scene advocating for better conditions and treatment of working elephants in India and other Asian countries and have been providing assistance to Wildlife SOS on the ground.

There are about 15,000 working elephants in several Asian countries and although some elephant handlers including mahouts in India treat their elephants kindly, most working elephants suffer from harsh treatment and even abuse from elephant handlers.

In fact, most elephant handlers in India use traditional and cruel techniques, and are unaware of positive management and training methods. Wildlife SOS is working to change this practice over time through their unique, chain free approach towards the management and care of cow elephants.

Begging street elephants are particularly common in India. Geeta Seshamani, a founder of Wildlife SOS, stated ” These animals, much like the hundreds of street dancing bears that Wildlife SOS has rescued from the roadside venues in India, are forced to perform for their street begging mahouts in order to get money.”

In the case of Bijlee, she was discovered dehydrated and infested with maggots. Dr. Yaduraj of Wildlife SOS said,  In order to get her out of a recumbent position, the elephant had to be lifted up with a crane allowed to stand for a short periods of time.  She is now being treated with fluids and antibiotics, but is still in very grave & critical condition.”

Regardless of whether an elephant has been abused in captivity, neglected or deliberately injured in the wild, Wildlife SOS is dedicated to rescuing these sentient beings at two of their rescue centers for elephants in India. If Bijlee makes a recovery, the wildlife biologists and veterinarians, as well as mahouts at Wildlife SOS elephant rescue facilities are prepared to care for her and introduce her to their herds, which are managed as some of the only captive elephant populations in India trained through animal friendly positive reinforcement techniques.  Mr. R.K. Poley, Chief Conservator of Forests, Thane said, “The Maharashtra Forest Department will extend complete cooperation to Wildlife SOS to shift these elephants to the rescue center at the earliest time. ”

Persons wishing to support wildlife sos can click on Donations are welcomed by Wildlife SOS to support the treatment and care of the elephants

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