For Wildlife SOS, 2015 had its fair share of highs and lows, and brought with it all the memorable, pulse-racing moments of a busy year well-spent.
Our teams, spread across India, are linked by a very special cause- rescuing wildlife in distress and bringing them to safety. These are the top 15 rescues we pulled off in 2015, thanks to your support!
1. Suzy, The 60 year old Blind Circus Elephant
Deceptively tiny, but with a personality that’s larger than life, Suzy wasn’t just Wildlife SOS’ first elephant rescue of 2015, but also marked the first of our circus elephant rescues since the launch of our campaign! Blind, weak and with old age quickly catching up with her, Suzy didn’t seem to have much time left- but Wildlife SOS puts in special effort for this special girl, and that, combined with Suzy’s admirable tenacity and strength, have helped her make the most of her freedom.
2. Asha Elephant Rescued From Indore
Following close on the heels of Suzy’s rescue, Asha arrived at the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in February after nearly 46 years of abuse as a working elephant- ferrying tourists up the steep slopes of Amber Fort in Jaipur, until a devastating limb injury left her unable to ascend the steep incline. Even then, Asha was forced to beg in the streets, until she was rescued by Wildlife SOS and brought into our care. Today, Asha (whose name means ‘hope’ in Hindi) is a free, happy elephant- and the matriarch of the Herd of Hope!
3. Lakhi; The Blind Begging Elephant
Tall and beautiful, 60 year old Lakhi came into our lives soon after Asha, and took an immediate liking to the latter. After years of cruelty that left her terribly weak and blind in both eyes, it was heartwarming to watch Lakhi enjoying her new life at ECCC. Even as the herd grows with every elephant rescue, Lakhi and Asha remain closest to each other, with the delightfully kind Asha always there to keep a careful watch over her blind companion.
4. Rescued From The Moonlight Circus The Nut Herd; Peanut, Coconut, Walnut and Macadamia
April brought warmer weather and four new members of the Wildlife SOS elephant family, with the rescue of four circus elephants from Maharashtra. Macadamia, Walnut, Coconut and Peanut suffered for years as performing elephants, but found sanctuary at ECCC under the dedicated care of Wildlife SOS. The four, lovingly nicknamed the Nut Herd, have made friends with the other elephants but still love spending time with each other.
5. Leopard Rescues
The summer brought water deprivation to the leopards of Junnar, Maharashtra, forcing them out of their rapidly dwindling forests and into human habitation. Calls to the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre escalated, reporting unsuspecting big cats that had accidently gotten themselves trapped in dangerously deep wells. One leopard set a record of sorts by managing to get itself trapped in two wells- on the same day! Luckily, all the leopards were successfully rescued and released back into the wild.
Up north in Agra, we got a rather unexpected call about a leopard in somebody’s house. The animal was safely removed from the home and has been released back into its natural habitat. Soon after, a 5-month old cub was rescued by the Wildlife SOS team in Delhi, having gotten her paw stuck in a poaching wire-trap. The helpless young cub is now at our Agra rescue facility and undergoing treatment for her damaged limb.
6. Suma Bear Rescued From The Borders
May found our anti-poaching unit at the border of India and Nepal in a standoff between a group of poachers and a hostile crowd of villagers. Although the poachers managed to escape, the team managed to rescue the animal they were trying to smuggle across the border- a female sloth bear. Suma, as she was named, now lives at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility, with other rescued sloth bears, free to forage, explore and just be a bear!
7. Hamsi, The Bear Victim Of Man-Animal Conflict
A female sloth bear, spotted thrice in the same village on the outskirts of the Bandipur Forest Division in Karnataka, was finally brought to the attention of the Wildlife SOS team in the area after multiple attempts by villagers to scare her away failed. The reason for the bear’s incessant wandering into human habitation was discovered shortly after her arrival at the Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Centre, run by Wildlife SOS in the state. A gunshot wound to her left forelimb had resulted in a fracture, making it nearly impossible for her to move around or forage without immense amounts of pain. After hours in surgery and months in recovery, Hamsi, as she was named by the staff at the rescue centre, is now a permanent member of the Wildlife SOS four-legged family, and lives a safe life at BBRC. She’s even made a friend, another wild rescued bear named Gubbi!
8. Elvis – Anti-poaching Cub Rescue
March ended with a cub being rescued in the nick of time, just as he was about to be smuggled into Nepal to be sold as a dancing bear. Just two months old, this sloth bear had already suffered greatly at the hands of human beings- his teeth had been broken and his delicate muzzle crudely pierced with a hot iron rod. Luckily, our anti-poaching unit managed to get to him in time and brought the baby bear back to ABRF to live his life in our care. Elvis, as he was named, is the life of the centre, and his playful, naughty side makes it impossible not to love him.
9. 6 Foot Crocodile Rescued From A Village in Agra
A six-foot long crocodile was rescued by our Agra team after the massive reptile strayed into a local village, probably in search of food. Desperate attempts by the villagers to contain the animal resulted in severe injuries, but luckily the rescue team got there in time and managed to get the crocodile out before the situation escalated. The vets at the rescue centre treated the crocodile and kept it under observation over a few weeks, before releasing it back into the river.
10. 123 Turtles Seized From Poachers In Delhi
The slightest movement of a bag at a bus station alerted a police officer about three women attempting to smuggle more than a hundred flapshell turtles to be sold as part of the illegal wildlife trade. The Wildlife SOS team rescued the turtles and had the wonderful opportunity to watch 123 excited little turtles run happily to the river and to freedom!
11. Trapped & Beaten Hyena Rescued From Agra
November brought one of the most horrific cases of animal brutality we’ve witnessed- Wildlife SOS rescued a female hyena from a group of poachers who were beating her with iron rods. The animal was in such a pathetic state when we found her that we weren’t sure she’d make it. Her jaw and eye socket were completely shattered and she’d lost one of her limbs to a struggle with a poaching wire-trap. Days of surgery and post-op care followed, and our strong survivor pulled through. She is still under observation at the rescue centre, but has started walking a little and eating on her own.
12. Elephants Rescued From Circus; Mia and Sita
With the rescue of Mia and Sita from Chennai in November 2015, Wildlife SOS brought the number of circus elephants in India from 67 to 60 in just a year! The torrential rains in the region made the rescue quite tricky, but when Mia lay down on reaching ECCC, after many painful years on her weakened feet, it made the entire operation worthwhile. These two females now live with the other 5 circus elephants at ECCC, enjoying excellent veterinary care, nutritious food and a great new life.
13. Snakes In The City
This year’s snake rescues started in a BIG way- with a seven foot python being rescued in Agra after a confrontation with villagers left it with a severely damaged jaw. The 24 hr rescue helpline in Delhi kept the rapid response unit on its toes, as the calls for the slithering serpents came in, particularly during the monsoon- with a shocking number of calls coming in from the Delhi University campus! The most memorable snake rescue of the year would probably be September’s seizure- with 33 severely abused snakes being rescued by the team in Agra from poachers masquerading as snake charmers.
14. Road Accident Rescues
The beginning and end of the year are always the foggiest, and road accidents are fairly frequent including those involving unsuspecting animals. This year, we started off with the rescue of a young female Nilgai (blue bull) in Agra who had been left bleeding and terrified following an accident that had completely damaged her eye. Although the entire eye had to be removed to prevent the spread of the infection, this strong, brave animal was eventually released back into the wild, after being kept under observation for a period of time.
Twelve months (and many, many rescues later), a man on a highway in Delhi stopped to pick up a dog that had been hit by a car and took the animal back to a local shelter. To his surprise, the volunteers at the shelter informed him that the ‘dog’ was actually a jackal! The Wildlife SOS team was alerted and we picked up the injured animal and brought it into our care.
15. Suraj, The One-Eared Temple Elephant
We wrapped up the year with the most heart-wrenching of our elephant rescues, managing to get a bull elephant named Suraj out of a dark, tiny room in a temple in Maharashtra and to the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre just in time for Christmas! This magnificent tusker, whose name means ‘sun’ in Hindi, was in a pitiful condition when we first saw him- not only was he emaciated and scarred with wounds from bull-hooks and spiked chains, his entire left ear had been torn off. Getting this elephant out of his misery and into the safety of our care was the perfect way to end the year!