As the elephants at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre (ECCC) in Mathura were preparing for a regular day, they were oblivious to the fact that some special visitors, who had been eagerly waiting to meet them, were on their way! Among them was Miss Universe Great Britain 2022 Noky Simbani, who undertook a conservation education tour at ECCC and met the elephants under our care. Along with her fellow participants, Noky extended her support to Wildlife SOS’ ‘Refuse to Ride’ campaign, which exposes the dark truth about elephant rides in India.
Noky and her team visited the ECCC to promote and spread awareness about wildlife conservation in India. She was accompanied by Miss Universe Great Britain 2021, Emma Collingridge, along with the 2022 pageant finalists Trishala Lakhani, Harriotte Lane and Jasmin Cadwallader. For years now, Wildlife SOS has been hosting the titleholders of Miss Universe Great Britain at our rescue centres.
Noky graduated from the University of Birmingham with a master’s degree in Chemical Engineering and is now a Chartered commercial banker, driving enterprise growth initiatives to support businesses across the country. The 25-year-old was crowned Miss Universe Great Britain this year, and has been the winner of Miss Grand England in 2017, leading her to represent England at the Miss Grand International 2017.
The team spent time interacting with the resident elephants, all of whom have been given a second chance at a life free of abuse and cruelty. The visiting group was given a tour of the ECCC by Wildlife SOS Education Officer, Shivam Rai. During the tour, the participants were also made familiar with the various tools of torture such as bullhooks and spiked chains which are used on elephants kept in unlivable and brutal captive conditions. Their captors or owners deprive them of basic nourishment and diet, and even safe drinking water. The elephants are tied by their feet to rusting, spiked chains. These are the reasons why many elephants rescued by Wildlife SOS are found in emaciated conditions, with most of them suffering from terrible foot conditions.
This was followed by an interactive session with the Wildlife SOS team of elephant care staff to understand the threats that Asian elephants face in India and learn about our organisation’s elephant protection efforts. The participants became privy to the daily routine of the rehabilitated elephants, which include their daily walks, target training, enrichment activities, feeding and bathing time. Such a routine ensures their welfare, management and long-term care.
Post lunch, the team proceeded towards the Treatment Unit of ECCC to interact with the veterinarians. Here, the group witnessed the treatment session of Pari, a recently rescued elephant. This was followed by a tour of the treatment facilities overseen by Wildlife SOS veterinary officers Dr. Rahul Prasad and Dr. E Gochalan, who informed the visitors about the lab and the various advanced equipment being used for the elephants’ treatment. The visiting group was also informed about the fundamental differences between Asian and African elephants, including the basics of elephant anatomy.
The British pageant queens also accompanied our elephants Arya and Zara for an observational walk during their evening walk sessions. Noky Simbani later took to her social media account on Instagram, sharing images from her visit and encouraging people to visit and volunteer for the cause. The Wildlife SOS team shed light on the alarming reality behind elephant ride attractions in India as well as on our ongoing ‘Refuse to Ride’ campaign, aimed at creating awareness amongst tourists and the general public about illegally riding elephants.
Noky Simbani had been greatly moved, and expressed her experience at the centre. “We started our day with an introductory video showing the horrible past of the elephants rehabilitated here at the centre and I was shocked to learn about the harrowing experience these elephants faced in their lives,” she said. “But I have been overjoyed to see just how effective and caring the Wildlife SOS team is in giving these elephants a better life along with specialised medical care and treatment. I would urge you all to get involved either by raising awareness or by visiting the Elephant Conservation & Care Centre, and supporting the cause to make a lasting impact on these beautiful animals,” she added.
Emma Collingridge, who won last year’s Miss Universe GB, voiced her support as well. “Seeing the doctors and the labs here doing the incredible work to protect the elephants is truly inspiring. Everyone should come down here and visit the centre themselves so that they can see the kind of efforts that are being made to help these animals,” she said.
Young influencers coming forward to promote the endeavour of Wildlife SOS is encouraging and has the potential to inspire others. This will help spread a conscious message about conservation and wildlife protection, and draw attention to the plight of Asian elephants in India. You can also extend your support to the cause by signing the petition to our ‘Refuse to Ride’ campaign and becoming a monthly donor for Wildlife SOS, and help us continue the fight.