For most of her life, Ginger was adorned with colourful chalk paint and made to walk on hot tarmac roads as a begging elephant. She was subjected to regular beatings, starvation, and a cruel apathy. Ginger lived under the constant threat of being beaten or prodded with a bullhook (ankush). Sheer brutality eventually led to her becoming blind. When not begging, Ginger was decorated to be used as a prop for various processions.
However, a promising future awaited her when team Wildlife SOS had committed to bring Ginger under its care at the Treatment Unit at Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in the cold winters of December 2021. Today, this geriatric elephant is under the professional care of our dedicated veterinary officers and elephant care staff. Our team is relieved to witness the almost 60-year-old elephant taking small, yet crucial steps in her healing journey. We honour Ginger as the Elephant of the Month for July, and here are her remarkable milestones at Wildlife SOS!
Milestones At Wildlife SOS
- Bell removal
As we watched Ginger gradually feel safe and loved, we knew it was time to remove the bell around her neck. The removal of the bell is a necessary ritual to denote that the elephant is no longer servile. Through this act, we officially bid adieu to Ginger’s past and welcomed a life of freedom. The entire Wildlife SOS team was teary eyed as we watched Baiju Raj M.V, Director – Conservation Projects at Wildlife SOS, remove Ginger’s bell.
- First walk
An elephant’s first steps of freedom signify the start of a new journey to health and safety. As Ginger became more familiar with her new surroundings, our team decided to take her on a walk along the Yamuna riverbanks. Carefully guided by her caregiver, Ginger’s trunk too led her way over soft grass that provided some relief to her healing footpads.
- Christmas celebrations
As Christmas celebrations took over the Elephant Centre, Ginger was showered with a number of treats and a lot of love. Watching her explore and devour the Christmas enrichment items filled each of the team members with joy! Our staff prepared large stockings and gift boxes stuffed with popcorn, carved watermelons, and sugarcane wreaths.
- Resting and sleeping peacefully
After a month of her arrival, Ginger finally began lying down and sleeping peacefully. The hot concrete roads that she was forced to walk on were now replaced with soft mud on which she could rest comfortably. This was a positive sign of healing from the past, and how Ginger finally felt safe and secure.
Ginger’s Medical Treatment
Upon her arrival at the centre, several medical examinations were conducted to examine her health condition. It was revealed that not only was she severely dehydrated and malnourished, Ginger’s body was also covered with multiple septic abscesses. The condition of her footpads was pitiable and her limbs suffered from hygroma and degenerative joint disease. Given her age, she was in an urgent need of medical attention. Extremely worried about her physical and psychological health, Wildlife SOS veterinary officers and caregivers have since worked round-the-clock to provide Ginger with all the care she needs. In the past months, a rigorous plan has been charted out to ensure her comfort and healing.
Our team provided her with fluid therapy to hydrate her. She has also received treatment for abscesses, footpads, hygroma, and degenerative joint disease. Laser therapy was provided to her to manage pain in her limb joints. Additionally, our veterinary officers also came up with an innovative solution of using a sole guard to alleviate her pain. This allows her to distribute her weight evenly and strengthens her abused footpads. Our team is also administering her painkillers and oral supplements to speed up her healing. As Ginger heals physically, her mental scars are slowly fading away too. The gentle giant is no longer anxious and fearful at all times, and can even be found drifting into a relaxing nap in the day!
Diet And Enrichment
Another crucial aspect of Ginger’s life at Wildlife SOS has been the provision of a nutritious diet and a variety of enrichment. Wholesome and balanced meals ensure that the pachyderm builds the much-needed strength. She’s given porridge every day, which is a mixture of rice, millets, and pulses. Besides this, she also receives fresh fruits and vegetables such as papayas, bananas, watermelons, and pumpkins. Fresh stalks of fodder such as berseem, sugarcane, and chari, are also provided to her.
Our veterinary team curates well-thought diet plans for Ginger, which vary to fit the season. In winter months, for instance, ‘mashala’ is added to her meals. It is a concoction of jaggery, carom, and turmeric, that helps her to fight the harsh weather and digest food with ease. In summer months, Ginger is provided with refreshing fruits and vegetables, like cucumbers. Her enclosure is also fitted with a cage feeder enrichment that has little holes on the side and is filled with treats. Ginger reaches the holes with her trunk to pull out her treats. This activity keeps her mentally stimulated, and helps her exercise her trunk.
Ginger’s resilience is heartwarming and inspiring. Her physical and emotional recovery will take time, but we are delighted to see her take every step towards them with us! We are grateful to the Forest Department for assisting Wildlife SOS in bringing Ginger to the Treatment Unit at ECCC. We thank you all for being a part of Ginger’s journey at Wildlife SOS. You can contribute to her care by sponsoring Ginger, here.