6 years ago, Wally was rescued from a circus and rehabilitated to the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre. As a performing elephant, Wally’s routine was fixed – forced to stay awake for hours and trained mercilessly to perform tricks such as playing with a football. As a reward, he would be given a meager amount of dry fodder and a bowl of water, while he was restrained to a filthy corner with chains.
Wally’s initial days at the centre were challenging as he battled to enjoy his newfound freedom and to escape from his agonizing past. Our elephant care staff observed that he would lean his head against a wall and display aggressive stereotypic behaviour such as head bobbing, which would leave lacerations on his forehead. He would spend hours pacing in his field, without resting, and his distress was evident.
It was not an easy task for Wally to adjust to kindness, but he never gave up and showed strength in these challenging times. As he gradually grew accustomed to his surroundings, he learnt how to be the young, rambunctious elephant that he is today! Soon, our field team noticed that Wally became a lot more active, especially after resting through the night. He started using the structural enrichments in his field and even acknowledged his neighbours, Peanut and Coconut, who were rescued with him from the same circus.
Bull elephants, by nature, are reclusive and prefer to spend their time alone, but this intelligent pachyderm surprised us in every way. He is easily one of the most expressive bull elephants under our care, with his curious eyes scanning his surroundings looking for ways to keep the elephant care staff busy. He has gained strength under our care and from an emaciated, afraid elephant, he has transformed into a boisterous and strong elephant, who is blissfully unaware of his own strength. The elephant care staff can be seen fixing the enrichments in his enclosure as he pulls at a pipe too hard or dismantles enrichments with seamless effort!
Each time that his caregiver is around, Wally knows that his enrichment bag will be full of jaggery and dates, which are his favourite. He will let out a series of soft trumpets that often stretches on for more than 10 minutes till he has had his fill. Wally is not picky when it comes to fruits and vegetables, but his love for watermelons and papayas clearly surpasses that of bottle gourds and cabbage!
Our elephant care staff specializes in caring for young bulls, who experience regular periods of musth. During this time, bull elephants experience high levels of testosterone which often makes them slightly aggressive and unpredictable. When Wally is in musth, he shows reduced interest in food and can be seen actively walking around his enclosure, letting out stern trumpets. His caregiver observes the distinct swelling in his temples with the secretion of a hormone-rich substance called temporin.
Wally’s unmatched energy is expended in the pool, especially during musth, where he can be seen splashing around in the water for hours at an end. His pool is regularly cleaned and sanitized, keeping in mind the COVID19 protocols in place. We witness a different side to our dear Wally when he fills his trunk with water and splashes it all around him, even on anybody passing by his field!
During his walks to the riverside, Wally is quick to deviate from his designated walking path to head straight for the Yamuna river! Once inside, his caregiver is well aware that Wally will take his own time to come out. His happiness knows no bounds and we see his big eyes close in sheer delight, trumpeting with enthusiasm. To be surrounded with Wally’s infectious energy is what makes us strive harder to save India’s elephants.
Today, Wally lives a comfortable life at the Wildlife SOS Field of Dreams, surrounded with the care and compassion that he deserves. His compromised mental well-being often makes him anxious to new faces, which is why we ensure that his caregiver remains the same. Wally has formed a special bond with him and always lets out a soft trumpet whenever he is around, in exchange for peanuts and jaggery.