Elephant Of The Month: Bhola

May 14, 2021 | By Mahima Sharma

In leisurely walks by the riverside, Bhola often pauses, his trunk lightly traces the soft mud that he stands on. The relief of the natural substrata was the most basic necessity that Bhola was deprived of.  Bhola spent decades as a begging elephant forced to navigate the narrow streets of a village, violently prodded by a bullhook.  He was almost completely blind and nearing a geriatric age. He would be treated mercilessly and kept tightly restrained to a corner of an uncovered shed, susceptible to storms and heat.

Bhola slowly walking along the riverbank. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

On one such fateful night, when Bhola’s ruthless owner was illegally transporting him across state borders on a dimly lit highway, a speeding truck collided with Bhola. He was left battling for his life in the middle of the highway, but managed to hold on to every speck of his strength till help arrived. His rescue by Wildlife SOS finally introduced him to the love and care that he deserved.

[Image designed by Mahima Sharma]

Bhola has been calling the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre his home for a decade now! We celebrated his tenth year of freedom in November, 2020 and continue to celebrate him each day as he recovers with us.

Bhola also loves foraging on the fresh green patches around the Centre. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS]

Bhola’s accident left him with chronic wounds, infected abscesses and a degenerative joint condition. Our veterinary team has charted an exclusive diet and specialized treatment for him. Bhola is completely blind from one eye and has lost his vision in the other eye, thus making him very anxious to newer voices and around unfamiliar people.

Bhola receives treatment (in the elephant-restraining device area. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

Prioritizing his comfort, he is looked after by the same caregiver who was there when he arrived at the Centre, ten years ago. Initially, Bhola needed mechanical support to be lifted, each time that he would lie down, owing to the dedicated care that he has received, he is now able to get up on his own with ease.

Bhola’s loss of vision makes him slightly anxious around newer faces. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori]

Our elephant care staff has curated high mud beds for him which assist him in resting during the day and getting up without adding any further stress to his limbs. Bhola loves to walk around his spacious enclosure and often uses his trunk to trace his path to his pool – the most loved part of his field! Our dear Bhola does not hesitate to take a dip, walking into his pool and splashing water all around him. Water plays an important role in spelling relief, especially for geriatric elephants with serious joint conditions. He loves his pool so much that he even sleeps close to it during night time.

Bhola splashing around in his pool on a hot summer day! [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

Bhola loves to munch on bananas, sugarcane, watermelons and pumpkins, with pumpkins occupying a special place in his heart. He carefully navigates his trunk across his cage-feeder enrichment to pick up some fresh pieces of pumpkin and gobbles them down in quick succession. He wakes up at the crack of dawn and takes a slow walk around the periphery of his field, rumbling out to his neighbour, Suraj, who will be fast asleep.

His favourite cage-feeder enrichment filled with sugarcanes. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

Bhola’s chronic wounds and abscesses require long-term, highly intensive care and thus, includes medicated foot baths for his injured foot pads and toenail abscesses. This acts as an antiseptic and prevents maggot infestation. Bhola’s abscesses are treated with a paste made of antibacterial medicines that promote wound healing.

Bhola shares a special bond with his caregiver who leads these walks. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

Bhola’s nature of injuries is such that his treatments extend to hours at a stretch and our veterinarians ensure that he is comfortable. His caregiver is always there to comfort him. Positive conditioning helps Bhola associate the command given by his caregiver to a positive reaction or a treat such as his favourite pumpkins or bananas.

His favourite enrichment is also his tyre feeder enrichment which he loves to play around. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

Treatments for bulls is done through a protected contact wall designed specially to have “ports” which open to the elephant’s ears, foot and rump. This makes treatment safe and easy without putting our gentle giants through any discomfort, with the steady intake of treats!

Bhola’s caregiver puts sugarcane stalks in his mud bed. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori]

It was a miracle for Bhola to have survived the ordeal that he did, unfortunately not every elephant survives such a brutal collision. Wildlife SOS has attended to many such elephants who have been victims of truck collisions but could not be saved. Nothing deters us from putting in every effort to ensure that they are comfortable even in their final moments. Please lend your voice and bring justice to the fallen victims of road accidents by signing our petition!

If you wish to contribute to Bhola’s ongoing care and treatment, please consider becoming a monthly donor or a sponsor to support him.

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