The plight of elephants in circuses is disturbing since they are continuously in chains and only let off when performing; far removed from conditions they need to thrive. Therefore, after eradicating the brutal practice of dancing bears in India, Wildlife SOS has now started focusing on the plight of captive elephants, specially performing animals and the ones in circuses.
Such is the case of one circus elephant, Suzy, who had to survive in pathetic conditions with a small circus in South India. She was constantly chained and was provided no enrichments or veterinary care. The lack of proper nutrition and regular exercise created a mental and physical trauma, along with chronic hunger and pain. Blind in both eyes, she was forced to perform and subjected to mental torture and continuous confinement; consequently she displayed severe stereotypy. Moreover, the Circus had no medical records of any medical treatment provided to the elephants although she seemed arthritic and with no foot care at all.
This lead to a daring midnight operation carried out by Wildlife SOS in association with the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department in an effort to rescue Suzy. The rescue team consisting of 10 officials including Wildlife SOS veterinarians Dr. Vibha Raghuram K and Dr. A. Sha Arun reached the location three days prior to the rescue as they had to make arrangements for the elephant to be comfortable during the journey. A special truck was prearranged for transporting Suzy to the Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh which is managed by Wildlife SOS. However, being unacquainted with the vehicle, she went berserk and refused to climb onto the truck. The rescue team had to administer a mild sedative to Suzy and further coax her onto the truck by offering her some mouthwatering fruits like bananas and watermelons.
Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-founder of Wildlife SOS said, “We are delighted that we were able to facilitate her rescue. We hope this will set a good precedent for offenders who keep elephants in illegal captivity. We are grateful to the Andhra Pradesh Forest department for facilitating the rescue of Suzy in a timely manner so she could be saved.”
Once Suzy was rescued the biggest challenge faced by the team was to prevent her from getting dehydrated during the long truck journey. For that, Wildlife SOS team constantly showered the elephant with water while also stopping periodically to check her health and give her adequate nourishment.
Dr Vibha Raghuram, Wildlife SOS veterinarian, said, “Suzy is such a gentle elephant that it is hard to believe somebody could be cruel and abusive to her. She has lots of abscesses, injuries and chronic issues that need veterinary intervention. Her feet are also in very bad shape and she needs urgent foot care. I look forward to working with her and making her free from pain and fear at our rescue centre.”
Suzy is now settling in her new home at Wildlife SOS’s Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. Every day, as her caretaker walks her around the new surroundings, we see her growing familiar and friendlier with the other elephant inhabitants and the Wildlife SOS team. Currently, she is receiving necessary medical treatment for her injuries and foot care for her overgrown foot pads and cracked toenails.
We would like to extend our gratitude to each and every one who made this rescue possible. Thank you for your kind support!