One year ago, a begging elephant we call Jasmine, was loaded onto a truck in Delhi and transferred to a forested elephant rescue center in the state of Haryana. Although Jasmine leaving the city was a turning point in her life, it was also a historical day for Delhi.
Prior to the exodus of Jasmine, elephants had been kept in Delhi for countless decades. Even with the best of intentions, a city that is home to millions of people can not offer an elephant a humane life. Many of the elephants ended up dead or with serious injuries from being hit by cars and trucks. Walking on the hot tarmac roads gave them serious foot problems. Fresh water for them to drink was difficult to procure. Elephants, which are wild animals, just didn’t belong in the city. A moment of reflection would have most rational thinkers make the same conclusion.
Delhi did something bold, that truly should be universally acknowledged and applauded. The city, with the support from the citizens, recognized the injustices to these elephants and took decisive action. Over the course of several years, the elephants that had languished in cramped squalor, were moved to more suitable locations. Delhi’s jumbos were saved because of the different government entities working together. Governance with compassion and conviction made Delhi a model that other cities in India should follow.
Too often, if an injustice has thrived in an area for long periods of time, people can become blind to it and apathetic to change. Fortunately, Delhi did not let that happen with the elephants that were within the city limits. Instead, local law enforcement, forest officials, judges and others hammered out a plan to move them out. Resistance was not absent, but their sensibilities prevailed and Delhi is much better because of it.
The question is, now will other cities follow Delhi’s lead? Tragically, many cities across India still harbor many elephants in a hostile urban environment. Many that are blind and disabled continue to labor painfully in chains. We need to ask ourselves if this is right? In India, we have always had a unique connection with elephants. Our love for elephants, should compel us to provide for their wellbeing. Therefore, a simple first step is to acknowledge that elephants don’t belong in cities and a plan should be established to move them permanently out.
Seeing photos of Jasmine when she lived in Delhi compared with her life now is powerful. Transporting her out of Delhi actually transformed her to the point that she is almost unrecognizable. There appears to be joy in her movements and hope in her eyes. Some might say it was a miracle that changed her. But that isn’t the case. All she needed was some soft ground to walk on, mud to roll in and a city to show her some mercy.
For the love of elephants, it’s time other cities follow Delhi’s lead.