One whole year has passed since Nina was brought under Wildlife SOS’ long-term care at the treatment unit at the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre, Mathura. When we first saw her, Nina’s weak body could hardly bear the crushing weight of the heavy saddle fitted atop her protruding spine. Nina’s days were filled with torment as she was dragged by a rope to walk on hot, tarred roads. She would not know where to put her next step due to her complete blindness.
This had been Nina’s harsh reality for nearly six decades: She was reduced to a mere prop for wedding processions and was forced to beg on the streets of Uttar Pradesh. She was made to attend weddings even during the pandemic, despite being a blind elephant. Elephants have excellent hearing, but the noise of loudspeakers and firecrackers at these functions caused severe and unimaginable trauma to Nina.
As soon as Wildlife SOS learned about her condition, the team sprang into action to relieve her from the terrible conditions and bring her to the Elephant Hospital. It was probably a happy coincidence that this 60-year-old elephant was rescued on the occasion of World Environment Day. Her day-long journey to ECCC was hectic, and the team halted frequently on the way to buy fruits and vegetables for her. When she arrived at the treatment unit, our caregivers led Nina as she took tender steps while lifting her trunk to gauge the new smells around her.
She was underweight and emaciated, and our veterinary team gave her some time to settle in her new surroundings before beginning with her diagnosis. Initial examinations revealed that Nina was suffering from severe osteoarthritis in her hind limbs. Our vets believed this might have been caused by an unhealed injury after falling into an open ditch, or from a possible collision. Nina’s spinal region also had swelling and inflammation owing to the weight of the saddle which had cut through her flesh.
As Nina completes one year under the care of Wildlife SOS, our veterinary team continues to tend to her by providing her all the medical care she requires.
Due to her delicate condition, the vets have decided to allocate a separate enclosure to Nina. She is under intensive care and treatment, so her interaction with other elephants is kept at a bare minimum. Nina currently has a footpad and nail ulcer which restricts her walking. She roams around the field in her enclosure carefully and slowly, with her caregiver by her side. During these walks, Nina is jovial and participates in dust bath sessions over the lush grasses of the hospital area.
As a ceremony carried out for rescued elephants at Wildlife SOS, the bell tied around Nina’s neck was removed. Bell-removal denotes the freedom of an elephant from its harrowing past. This event is crucial during the elephants’ recuperation period, as they adjust to their new environment. For Nina, we needed to be more careful since she is a blind elephant, and would need time to adapt to her surroundings.
Nina receives regular laser therapy sessions to provide relief to her limbs at a cellular level. Nina remains calm and co-operative during these long sessions as she munches on ripe bananas. She is also given oral medication for her pain and joints, in addition to multivitamin supplements and liver tonic. For her foot and nail ulcer, the vets give her foot baths twice a day with turmeric powder, boric acid and magnesium sulphate. Along with this, our vets make Nina wear shoes which are lined with medicines from the inside, to minimise contamination as much as possible.
The diet given to her is carefully charted by our veterinary team for her to chew and digest easily. As part of her fresh green fodder, Nina likes to relish the cherry leaves but we make sure that if stems are given alongside, they are soft, since she has a mouth ulcer. Ripe fruits such as bananas, watermelons, papayas and cucumbers, are also peeled and given to her because of this. A lover of fresh watermelons, she takes her time to relish the whole serving rather than finishing it in one go.
As we watch Nina take a nap, we know she will wake up early at the break of dawn, accompanied by the melody of bird songs. We hope for a brighter future for Nina, who is also our Elephant of the Month. Although she is yet to heal mentally and physically, Nina has given us more reason to celebrate World Environment Day. While our team of vets and elephant care staff is working to improve her health conditions, you too can support Nina in her path to recovery by becoming a monthly donor.