Two years ago, on the fourth of July 2014, Dr. Yaduraj Khadpekar knelt down near a massive bull elephant, and with the care and precision of the fantastic veterinarian he is, gently cut the spiked chains cutting into the elephant’s legs – the very chains that had held this amazing animal captive for more than fifty years. The entire rescue was caught on camera, including the heart wrenching moment when tears trickled steadily out of Raju the elephant’s eyes as his chains were cut. Overnight, the video of the rescue went viral and Raju became a symbol of hope for captive Asian elephants in India, and Dr. Yaduraj’s concerned concentration and gentle hands found themselves around the world, on people’s screens and in their hearts.
Although Dr. Yaduraj became known as the man who cut Raju’s chains that fateful night, his tryst with captive elephant rescues began much before that, and he has worked as a veterinarian with Wildlife SOS for nearly seven years now, treating and caring for the wonderful elephants that we rescued and brought into his dedicated, diligent care.
So naturally, when supporters began writing in requesting a platform where they could learn about the medical care we give our elephants, and have their questions on the matter addressed, there was nobody better than Dr. Yaduraj to address them. Wildlife SOS hosted a webinar on ‘Caring for Rescued Elephants’ late last month, with the vet at the helm.
Dr. Yaduraj walked the audience through the copious number of wounds and ailments that affect captive elephants, with helpful examples of elephants he has worked with while with Wildlife SOS. He explained thoroughly the various problems that elephants come to us with, and detailed out exactly why captivity and abuse leads to these. Although the initial slides were somewhat painful to watch, showing the gruesome and heart-wrenching reality of what these elephants have gone to, the following slides about the treatment carried out once the elephants reach the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre lent a touch of hope and happiness to everyone listening in. Dr. Yaduraj went on to discuss the treatment of each of the ailments he had earlier listed out, with fascinating videos and pictures of what his work in the field actually looks like.
He even touched upon the fascinating practice of target training- a pain-free, humane means of training an elephant using positive reinforcement, which we use to earn the trust and cooperation of our elephants to make veterinary work and care easier and safer for the vets and the elephants.
The webinar ended with an interactive question and answer round, where Dr. Yaduraj addressed some of the questions that the audience put forward, regaling them with stories of his fascinating and extremely important work.
If you missed the webinar, but want a glimpse into the veterinary care and treatment of our rescued elephants as told by this wonderful vet, you can find a recording at this link.