Suraj Pal has worked with Wildlife SOS for four years, acting as an elephant keeper at Wildlife SOS’ Elephant Care and Conservation Centre, Mathura. His understanding and respect for elephants is well-known among the staff at ECCC, and we thought we’d talk to him to find out a little more.
How did you come to work for Wildlife SOS?
I joined Wildlife SOS in April 2011, a little more than four years ago.
I came from a family of mahouts, and had taken up the same occupation. I acted as a mahout for about 10 years, after which I took a break from working with animals, and was employed as a waiter for a while. But I always wanted to go back to working with elephants. I assisted Wildlife SOS in the rescue of Bhola, an elephant that was in a terrible condition after being hit by a truck. Moved by the work the organization does, and wanting to work with elephants again, I came to work for them as a keeper at ECCC.
What are your duties at the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre?
I’m an elephant keeper at ECCC, so a regular workday for me involves feeding the animals, cleaning enclosures and building enrichments for them to play with. I also take the elephants on walks, to ensure they get sufficient exercise. When the elephants are undergoing medical treatment with the veterinary staff, I’m generally around to help out.
What would you consider the hardest part of your job?
I couldn’t say really. The work is so rewarding and the elephants, though sometimes hard to manage because of their size and strength, are generally so wonderful to be around that I have no complaints about it.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The elephants I get to work with have been saved from terrible circumstances. Watching them recover is a heartwarming experience. Nothing is better than seeing a former captive elephant roaming free. That’s why assisting in rescues is my favourite part of my job, I get to help bring about this change in the animal’s life.
What do you love the most about working with elephants?
I’ve worked with elephants nearly my entire life, so I find it comfortable being around them. When I wasn’t working with elephants, I missed it terribly, and jumped at the chance to be around them again. They’re wonderful animals.
Do you have a favourite among the elephants you have worked with?
I love Bhola because he and I joined Wildlife SOS at the same time, we started our journey here together. My current favourite is probably Laxmi. She’s a beautiful and exceptionally friendly and calm elephant, and has come such a long way since her rescue. It makes me happy just being around her.