Wild Highlights Of The Year – 2023!

December 23, 2023 | By Tushti Sharma
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The year 2023 brought multiple occasions, events and highlights at Wildlife SOS which left a mark on everyone’s hearts. From rescues of wild animals from extreme situations to the introduction of new animals at our centres, we saw it all! Here’s a glimpse of some of our biggest achievements throughout the year. 

1. Empowering Elephants In India! 

Rama, the tuskless bull, stepped foot into our Elephant Hospital Campus in Mathura after experiencing years of torture as a begging elephant. He was rescued as a weak and malnourished elephant in October 2023 by Wildlife SOS and was given the hope of a better and safer future. Today, Rama stands tall as he takes in the fresh air of the centre, munching on some of his favourite fruits like watermelons and bananas, taking in the love and kindness provided to him by his caregiver! 

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS/ Mradul Pathak]

When it comes to caring for elephants who have experienced brutality throughout their life, we must not forget about Moti. The 35-year-old elephant was forced to give up as he surrendered to the fight and unfortunately passed away in February of this year. His scars had cut deeper into his soul, and the gentle giant was laid to rest by our dedicated team of caregivers and veterinarians. Understanding the need for help, Wildlife SOS raised a petition to take action to protect all captive elephants in India through required bi-annual inspections and veterinary certificates of health

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS/ Nikhil Bisht]

The story of friendship never fails to make anyone smile, as we proudly presented our latest arrivals – Taj and Tara. Their budding friendship proves how two abused pachyderms found solace in each other’s company as they bonded over their shared experiences. Coming from a traumatic life filled with hardships and pain, the pair was rescued by Wildlife SOS and were given a new place to call home! 

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS/ Mradul Pathak]

2. Sloth Bear Conservation At Wildlife SOS! 

When it comes to increasing awareness for sloth bears, we urge you to mark your calendars as 12th October is no ordinary day. Wildlife SOS, in collaboration with the IUCN-SSC, designated it as World Sloth Bear Day. This year, our team took to the streets of Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, and Agra to talk to people about sloth bears and the need for their conservation. Take a look at the video to know more about this project! 

Other than roaming around the bustling streets of India, the dedicated team of veterinary staff and researchers also conducted a large-scale habitat study of sloth bears using radio collars. The goal of this study was to identify the causes and nature of human-bear conflict using a survey. This was a remarkable project undertaken for which the research had been going on for nearly a decade! 

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS]

Similarly, to raise awareness about sloth bears, the USA bear TAG team visited our Agra Bear Rescue Facility (ABRF) for a week-long knowledge exchange workshop on ex-situ conservation of sloth bears. 

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS/ Mradul Pathak]

3. Celebrating The Journey – Five Years Of The Elephant Hospital Campus! 

After its inauguration in November 2018, the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital Campus (EHC) became the first and only Elephant Hospital in India. The vision behind building this hospital was to be able to provide long-term medical care for the rescued elephants with critical health conditions. 

Holly, our now approximately 65-years-old resident elephant, was the first ever pachyderm to come to the hospital for a treatment. With constant care, medical treatments and a lot of kindness, we were able to treat Holly in such a way that her situation was not critical anymore. 

This year we completed 5 years and have treated several elephants in need of help.

4. What The Stars Have To Say! 

2023 was a year full of visits and a large number of volunteers from across the globe who came together to support this cause. From corporate volunteers to Bollywood celebrities, everyone supported us in huge numbers and made a difference in their own way. 

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS]

To celebrate World Environment Day with our resident pachyderms, Disha Patani, a well-known Bollywood actress visited our sloth bear and elephant rescue centres. Along with this, on the occasion of Elephant Appreciation Day, actors such as Adil Hussain and Jennifer Winget also raised their voices with Disha Patani to narrate the stories of our rescued elephants. 

Many of the visitors and volunteers who visit and contribute have a lot to say about their experience and the kind of activities they were involved in. Many actors and actresses have also visited our Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Centre (BBRC) to learn about sloth bears and the ancient practice of ‘dancing’ bears, such as Raghu Gowda, Iti Acharya, and many more. 

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS/ Lenu Kannan]

5. Education And Awareness Programs!

Our education and awareness programs have taken over as we have conducted multiple workshops and presentations with the aim of spreading knowledge about the importance of wildlife conservation. 

Our team invites students to visit our centres and learn about the various aspects of wildlife conservation and management. Recently, five students from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) visited our centres as a part of their course curriculum to learn about the methods we use in providing care to our resident elephants and sloth bears. Our veterinarians have also visited different camps such as the Orang camp in Assam and the Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, where they took part in elephant health and treatment camps. 

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS/ Mradul Pathak]

Corporations like HSBC, Infosys, Northern Trust, J.P.Morgan, and Atlassian also volunteered at our centres. Apart from corporate volunteers, our centres are often visited by students from different backgrounds to learn more about our conservation efforts for our resident animals. 

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS/ Lenu Kannan}

6. A Few Notable Rescues By The Rapid Response Unit! 

Our Rapid Response Unit works round-the-clock to help the animals in need. Delhi NCR, Vadodara, Agra, and Jammu & Kashmir are the four cities where our team works day and night. Over the course of the year, the dedicated team orchestrated a remarkable 5,764 rescues, spanning mammals, reptiles, and birds.

In the bustling urban landscape of Delhi-NCR, the team has successfully rescued a total of 1,537 animals, including mammals, reptiles, and birds, demonstrating their tireless efforts month after month. The Agra team’s endeavours have been equally commendable, with a remarkable total of 1,993 rescues, spanning diverse species. Vadodara, with its team’s relentless dedication, has contributed significantly to the cause, rescuing a total of 2,064 animals. Even in the challenging terrains of Jammu and Kashmir, the team has undertaken 170 rescues.

We were also involved in two gruelling rescue operations where Wildlife SOS-GSPCA (Gujarat Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) managed to save 6 Indian star tortoises along with 23 aquatic species from illegal trade.

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS]

The festival of lights this year also brought in the seizure of two Bengal-eagle owls who were suspected of being sold and used in ritualistic sacrifice for traditional practices related to diwali. Wildlife SOS-GSPCA managed to rescue the two owls from their unlucky fate. 

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS]

7. We Have A Tiger Among Us – Gopal’s Introduction! 

On World Tiger Day which is celebrated on 29th July, we had the opportunity to introduce Gopal, who was able to find a new lease on life with the help of Wildlife SOS and Born Free Foundation. 

Our nearly 16-year-old tiger was rescued from an intense situation of human-wildlife conflict. To ensure that there was no danger to both the humans, as well as Gopal, the teams rescued Gopal and provided him with a new home at the Bannerghatta National Park. 

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS/ Hemanta Bijoy Chakma]

Our veterinarians keep an eye on him as well as conduct regular check ups to ensure he does not catch any infections or viral illnesses. To be able to introduce Gopal this year has truly been a highlight for us, and if his story has inspired you, you can always sponsor his care and make a difference! 

8. A Year Full Of Events And Extracurriculars!

Wildlife SOS kicked off the year by collaborating with the Eco Rescuers Foundation to host and fund a free bird treatment camp in Jaipur, India. With the increase in kite flying during Makar Sankranti, a huge number of birds get injured due to manjha. This year, we were able to provide care to over 150 birds including rock pigeons, a black kite and so many more, just in the span of four days!

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS/ Nikhil Bisht]

The camp was followed by our annual Founder’s trip that involves individuals coming for a 10-day visit to India which includes a tour of our centres in Agra. We share our rescue stories and provide awareness sessions on wildlife conservation. This is a great opportunity for people to understand the importance of the work we do and also learn about the various management methods. 

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS/ Mradul Pathak]

Over the year, we have conducted many webinars to talk about the important projects and issues Wildlife SOS is dealing with currently. Webinars such as Himalayan Brown Bear Survey in Kashmir, Human-Leopard Conflict in Kashmir and The Future of Endangered Species are some of the informative webinars we conducted in 2023. A very special webinar talking about Raju’s 10th year of freedom was also conducted wherein Wildlife SOS spoke about Raju’s history and how far he has come. Such webinars give us and our audience a chance to interact and give them an open platform to know more about the work we have done! 

9. Tis’ The Season To Celebrate!

When it comes to celebrations, Wildlife SOS is surely in the running for first place! Be it Halloween or Christmas, we ensure that our resident animals get pampered and celebrate in the best way possible. From carving pumpkins for animals and covering them with peanut butter or stuffing them with meat to making sure our resident elephants get their stocking full of popcorn and peanuts, our caregivers work hard to celebrate the holiday cheer! 

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS/ Suryoday Mann Singh]

The year was filled with a lot of milestone rescuversaries for many of our animals and our team definitely made it special for the animals. Our animals received their favourite treats, specially prepared by their caregivers. 

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS/ Mradul Pathak]

10. Leopard rescues and open wells

2023 was also filled with a variety of leopard rescues from all across the country. This year we managed to save 20 leopards, all from unique situations. A few leopard cubs were rescued after they were separated from their mothers, one was rescued after being trapped in a net in a farm, one was rescued from inside a house in a village and one was rescued and treated after being hit in a road accident. 

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS/ Akash Dolas]

However, the problems of open wells still prevail and many of the leopards were rescued from such open wells. Due to the prompt response by our team and locals, we managed to successfully rescue and release them back to their natural habitat! 

[Picture (c) Wildlife SOS/ Akash Dolas]

As the year ends and we look back at 2023, it gives us nothing but immense pride and motivation to work harder for the helpless animals in need. We would like to thank you all for your immense and continued support in everything we do. Here’s to the new year, hoping for a better world for the animals! 

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