Follow Emma’s journey home to the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital

January 4, 2021 | By Smriti Suri

In the aftermath of Jai’s successful rescue in record time, we are embarking on a new mission. At the cusp of 2021, our team is on its way to save Emma, an approximately 40-years old elephant who needs our help. Emma’s feet are in terrible condition and she lies down at every chance she gets just to avoid the pain.

We know it has been just a couple of weeks since we brought Jai to safety. We were working on getting Jai settled into his new home when we got an emergency call about Emma. When we heard about her situation and saw the photos, we knew we needed to help her immediately. Our goal is to have her on her way to the hospital campus in less then a week.

The wounds on Emma’s feet are appalling! [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

28th December, 2020 – 10:00 pm (IST)

When standing, Emma alternates lifting her right and left feet like she’s stepping on searing hot coals. The pain must be excruciating. We are working to get her initial medical treatment because she appears to have significant injuries to her forelimbs. Unfortunately Emma is a long, 2-day drive away from the Elephant Hospital. We have informants in the area giving us updates and images, but they are not equipped to render aid.

When standing, Emma alternates lifting her right and left feet. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS]

29th December, 2020 – 03:00 am (IST)

More images and information on their way to us as our observers on the ground gather more knowledge. They are told Emma is about 40-years-old and has spent much of her life walking along busy city streets, from state to state and used for begging, in wedding processions, and for religious ceremonies. The cruel treatment by her owner and his tools of torture are what first alerted us to her plight. A Wildlife SOS rescue team is working feverishly to plan her rescue and obtain proper paperwork.

The cruel treatment by her owner and his tools of torture are what first alerted us to Emma’s plight. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

30th December, 05:00 am (IST)

Emma needs real medical help from our licensed professionals. Her owner has ‘allegedly’ been force-feeding her alcohol in order to ‘treat’ her health problems and crippling injuries. Elephants can’t metabolize alcohol, so it can be toxic for them. Although our veterinarians have not been able to examine Emma yet, they are alarmed by the photos of her. One of our senior veterinarians stated, “She needs immediate intensive care and treatment and should be retired from any kind of work. Further negligence may lead to a life-threatening situation for this elephant.”

Emma’s owner has ‘allegedly’ been force-feeding her alcohol in order to ‘treat’ her crippling injuries. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

30th December, 2020 – 02:00pm (IST)

We have all been appalled by the fact that Emma was force fed alcohol by her owner. There are many variables to be taken into consideration during an elephant rescue. The foremost of them is the health of the elephant in question and the distance from its location to the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital. In Emma’s case, she’s currently situated over a thousand kilometers away from the hospital. In order to provide some immediate relief to her, an initial veterinary team flew to her location. This team will continue to stay on the ground and care for Emma while the Elephant Ambulance makes its way to her across state borders.

Here is Dr Ilayaraja, Deputy Director – Veterinary Services at Wildlife SOS, administering pain management medication and joint supplements by embedding it in the fruits meant for Emma’s consumption.

Dr Ilayaraja, Deputy Director – Veterinary Services at Wildlife SOS, administering pain management medication and joint supplements by embedding it in the fruits meant for Emma’s consumption. [Photo (c)Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak

30th December, 2020 – 08:00pm (IST)

Emma’s preliminary assessment has revealed sharp stones, pebbles and glass shards embedded in her foot pad, causing an inflammation along her right forelimb. As with all abused elephants, her toenails are overgrown and cracked and a particular digit on her right forelimb is disfigured.

The pebbles and stones in her footpad have also led to necrosis in the surrounding tissue. Necrosis is when a certain area of cells or tissue die prematurely due to disease or injury. Our vets have embarked on pain management to soothe Emma and their first priority is to control the infection. At the same time, she’s being administered joint supplements. The veterinarians have also cleaned her wound with antiseptic and turmeric and extracted the pebbles.

31st December, 2020 – 01:30am (IST)

It’s nighttime in India. Emma experienced her first moments of kindness and care under the watchful eye of our medical team. She’s sleeping now, after covering herself with comforting leaves and branches.

Emma sleeping peacefully. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

31st December, 2020 – 12:00pm (IST)

The Elephant Ambulance is all prepped to depart for Emma’s location! In a great flurry of activity since yesterday, the ambulance has been equipped with all necessary apparatus to help Emma travel back to the Elephant Hospital as comfortably as possible.

The truck has been loaded with thick, comfy blankets to keep Emma warm and tons and tons of sugarcane and other delicacies to keep her well-fed and rested. Our veterinary unit is also carrying all medical equipment including a portable laser therapy machine and an additional stock of medicines that might be required for Emma’s treatment.

It’s a long journey to her location and back, so the team has to be prepared for all eventualities.

Warm blankets for Emma! [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori]
Loading sugarcane for Emma onto the Ambulance. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori]

31st December, 2020 – 02:30pm (IST)

It’s go time!

The Elephant Ambulance has left for Emma’s location! We’ve been racing against the clock to ensure that we are able to get to Emma as soon as possible. The second team, consisting of WSOS care staff and equipped with all necessary paraphernalia, is on its way to Emma.

We estimate approximately a two day journey via road. Meanwhile, our primary unit, sent in advance to help and care for Emma while the ambulance arrives, is busy stabilising Emma’s condition by administering pain management for her feet so that she can make the journey without any stress.

Leaving for Emma’s location! [Photo (C) Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori]

31st December, 2020 – 05:15pm (IST)

Despite the urgency of embarking on any rescue, there are some crucial aspects to keep in mind. The foremost of them is to ensure the safety of both our staff and the elephant in question, by keeping in mind safety precautions to be taken during the pandemic. Here you can see WSOS staff assiduously sanitising the Elephant Ambulance before their departure. The team has also followed all protocols including donning protective gear and carrying respective kits.

Sanitising the ambulance before departure [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori]

31st December, 2021 – 08:00pm (IST)

It’s hard not to feel Emma’s pain when we see our veterinarians removing the glass shards, pebbles and stones embedded within her footpads. Because the wounds caused by this condition were left untreated, she’s suffering from many ailments including chronic abscesses.

The team had to earn Emma’s trust before the small operation and she was enticed with fruits like apples and bananas during the treatment. She’s wary of her surroundings and is taking her time with familiarising herself with the new faces, sounds and smells.

Our veterinarians removing the glass shards, pebbles and stones embedded within her footpads. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

1st January, 2021 – 03:00am (IST)

The Elephant Ambulance is the only vehicle on the road in the wee hours of the morning on 1st Jan 2021. As the rest of India is resting, the Wildlife SOS rescue team drives on with grit and determination to reach Emma. Each minute takes them closer to bringing Emma to safety. Fog has slowed their progress, but they’re about 12 hours away.

The Elephant Ambulance is the only vehicle on the road in the wee hours of the morning. [Photo (C) Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori]

1st January, 2021 – 02:00pm (IST)

After travelling continuously through the day and night, our rescue team has stopped for a short break which includes a quick light meal and tyre pressure checks and functionality of the Elephant Ambulance to ensure all is in order. The journey of over eleven hundred kilometers will take another eight to ten hours to complete and the team, despite exhaustion, is elated to be getting closer to Emma!

WSOS staff member conducts pressure and ambulance functionality check on the way. [Photo (C) Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori]
Quick meal and rest stop to shake the edge off. [Photo (C) Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori]

1st January, 2021 – 07:30pm (IST)

We’ve all seen the painful wounds Emma is sporting on her feet which make it very difficult for her to walk or rest her weight on either of her forelimbs. After the extraction of embedded pebbles and glass shards in her left forelimb, it became a necessity to provide her with relief through a medicated foot soak. This plays an incredibly important part of her treatment as she has a long journey in front of her. The mixture is made of magnesium sulphate and turmeric mixed in lukewarm water to expedite the healing of the foot and is instrumental in cleaning the foot pads and works as an antiseptic.

The footsoak mixture for Emma is made of magnesium sulphate and turmeric mixed in lukewarm water. [Photo (C) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]
Dr Ilyaraj treating Emma with delicacies during the footbath [Photo (C) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

1st January, 2021 – 11:00pm (IST)

The rescue team has finally arrived at Emma’s location after hours of continuous and strenuous driving. They’ve driven non-stop to cover more than a thousand kilometres of journey in one of the shortest timespans of our rescues! This has left them reeling from exhaustion and in need of dire rest.

They’ll retire for a well-deserved break in the night and then proceed with conducting a quick check-up on Emma to assess her readiness and condition to embark on the journey back to the Elephant Hospital.

The rescue team has finally arrived at Emma’s location! [Photo (C) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

2nd January, 2021 – 2:00pm (IST)

The injuries on Emma’s feet pose a big challenge so we want to ensure that she is feeling well rested before the long journey ahead. Our wildlife veterinary officer conducted a laser therapy session on Emma’s forelimbs. She was also given a soothing foot bath with Epsom salt and turmeric to provide some relief to her tired limbs.

Our wildlife veterinary officer conducted a laser therapy session on Emma’s forelimbs. [Photo (C) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

2nd January, 2021 – 5:30pm (IST)

It is go time! Emma is finally aboard the Elephant Ambulance ready to depart for the Elephant Hospital in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. As Emma had never been on any vehicle before, our team had to be extremely cautious while loading her onto the ambulance.

Understandably, she was quite wary of the process and had to be gently coaxed with the help of plenty of treats like cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers and bananas. Her caregiver also stayed by her side through the whole process, murmuring words of encouragement to her.

Emma being coaxed into the Ambulance with encouragement from her caregiver. [Photo (C) Wildlife SOS/Smriti Suri]

3rd January, 2021: 03:00 am(IST)

We’ve had to take a short stop to fix a headlight on the elephant ambulance. The roads are dimly lit and there has been a lot of fog. We try to prepare for all these eventualities because it’s not easy to get roadside assistance in most of the areas we are traveling through.

Engine trouble for the team mid-way. [Photo (C) Wildlife SOS/Mahima Sharma]

3rd January, 2021: 05:30 am(IST)

Emma is travelling well! The days of foot treatments, antibiotics and pain management before the Elephant Ambulance arrived are paying off. Emma is doing well, munching on sugarcane and taking in the sounds and smells around her. She’s calm when the truck is moving, but gets a little nervous when they slow down or stop. For now, our team has stopped by the roadside to give her some rest. She seems content in the truck, so we won’t take the added risk of unloading her. With every stop, Emma sticks her trunk up to smell and “waves” to curious bystanders.

Emma wrapped snugly within her jacket. [Photo (C) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

3rd January, 2021 – 09:30 am(IST)

As the team proceeded towards the Elephant Hospital in the wee hours of the night, and the mercury kept plunging, the need for warmth became more apparent. They stopped for a short break to stretch their legs and have some hot tea in one of the line hotels scattered across National Highways. They also lit a small bonfire to keep themselves warm before resuming their journey.

The team enjoying the warmth of a bonfire in the cold, early hours of the morning. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

3rd January, 2021 – 12:00 pm(IST)

A few hours after daybreak, our team stopped for a few minutes at a roadside grocery store to replenish their stores of fresh green leafy vegetables and fruits for Emma!

An elephant’s appetite is usually quite mammoth, and we’re glad to report that Emma is serenely munching away in the back of the ambulance. She has already shown a special preference for cabbage and cauliflower, so we made sure to grab a few extra bulbs for her!

WSOS Elephant Campaign Officer Mahima Sharma purchasing vegetables for Emma on the way back to the Elephant Hospital. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori]

3rd January, 2021 – 7:00 pm(IST)

Emma, very cautious by temperament, quickly sticks her trunk out of the cab of the Elephant Ambulance, sniffs for a few minutes and then just as quickly puts it back inside. This has been going on at sporadic intervals since she boarded the ambulance and it is really heartening to see that she’s already displaying an inquisitive bent of mind.

Emma’s trunk sticking out curiously from the cab of the Elephant Ambulance. [Photo (C) Wildlife SOS/Mahima Sharma]

4th January, 2021 – 01:00 am(IST)

The progress of the Wildlife SOS rescue team has slowed a bit due to fog. They have about 300km left of their 1,100km journey from Jharkhand to bring Emma to the freedom and safety of the Elephant Hospital Campus. With the help of pain management from the doctor, Emma is doing well as she munches on sugarcane and is intrigued by the curious sounds and smells around her.

Emma receiving pain medication from a WSOS vet. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

4th January, 2021 – 11:30am (IST)

EMMA IS HOME!

The moment we’ve all been waiting for is here! The Elephant Ambulance has entered the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital with Emma in tow. The long journey is finally at an end and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome the newest member of our elephant family.

Exhausted but elated, both the team and Emma are finally home at the end of an exceptional rescue.

Emma is finally home! [Photo (C) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

4th January, 2021 – 3:00pm (IST)

After they arrived, the team decided to lead Emma to some well deserved rest, and scattered gunny sack ‘pillow’ for Emma on the rubber padded floor of the hospital. She lay down after encouragement from her caregiver and was asleep within minutes, her gentle snores echoing softly within the hospital.

Emma enjoying a relaxing nap at the Elephant Hospital with her keeper by her side. [Photo (C) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

4th January, 2021 – 08:34pm (IST)

*Graphic Content Warning*

Having rested amply after her long journey, Emma underwent primary tests at the Elephant Hospital. We were able to X-ray her feet at the Hospital and it helped identify dozens of pieces of debris embedded in her feet. This necessitated another small maneuver where our vets extracted small pebbles and iron nails from both her forelimbs.

Emma was considerably patient through it all, occasionally twitching her trunk and emitting a rumble, as her keeper comforted her with gentle caresses and soothing words. She’s scheduled for detailed blood work and other tests in the coming days.

We extracted iron nails from her forelimbs. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mahima Sharma]
X-rays helped us identify foreign debris in her footpad. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mahima Sharma]

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