Elephant of the Month: Sanjay!

August 21, 2020 | By Mahima Sharma

There is something majestic and regal about a tusker walking, in all his grandiosity. For wildlife enthusiasts, spotting a tusker in the wild is the high-point of their lives. However, the brutal trade of poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking has made these sightings in the wild rarer than ever.

Of one such brutalising story is that of Sanjay who belonged rightly in the wild, nestled in the loving comfort of his herd. Instead, he was stolen from the nourishing care and subjected to a lifetime of servitude.  

Now, imagine this majestic tusker walking through the crowded spaces of a busy street, uncomfortably walking on hot tarmac surfaces, pebbles and thorns piercing through the hot tarmac surfaces. As people would pile on ahead of Sanjay to witness a sight of his tusks, a constant piercing of bull-hook from behind his ears would make him hesitantly lift his trunk to give blessings to these people.

Sanjay was a begging elephant with partial vision and an overbearing and painful past. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS]

Wildlife SOS and the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department acted very quickly when it came to Sanjay’s rescue and in the span of a few hours, he had to be freed from a lifetime of physical and psychological torture. Had we not acted quickly, Sanjay’s owner would have moved him across state borders and we would have lost him. Sanjay reached the Wildlife SOS Field of Dreams in the early hours of the morning, in February 2017 and took timid, tiring steps into his new surroundings.

Sanjay displayed signs of severe stereotypic behaviour as he would aggressively bob his head, especially in the initial days of his new surroundings. [Photo (C) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

A weak, dehydrated and neglected Sanjay needed immediate medical attention as his body was covered in seriously infected wounds. Sanjay is also partially blind and has no vision in his right eye – the possibility of a torn cornea or cataract owing to undernourishment. Sanjay suffered form torn footpads, overgrown toenails and broken digits, making us all wonder how he was able to walk through the excruciating pain.

Today, at complete ease to his new home, our dear Sanjay enjoys a scratch on his back whilst walking! [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

Today, his towering structure stands in the pleasant downpour of the monsoon feeling relief course through his veins as he indulges in relaxing mud baths and walks around his spacious enclosure making full use of the various enrichments. For a massive-sized elephant like Sanjay, having undergone abuse that he will never be able to forget, this bull elephant is extremely docile and gentle. Even during his treatments, he is extremely cooperative as he receives mediated footbaths of Epsom salt and turmeric to expedite healing of his footpads. He also receives coconut oil and neem oil massages to ease the pain in his arthritic limbs and gravely affected foot tissues.

Sanjay munching on green fodder by the riverside of Yamuna on a cloudy day! [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

Sanjay is approximately 3000kgs and is presently in musth which is a healthy phenomenon in an adult male elephant wherein they experience heightened levels of testosterone that is characterised by a secretion on their temple. The male elephants tend to become really moody and unpredictable during this period of time and have to be treated with utmost care. The monsoon weather immensely helps in bringing a slight coolness in the air especially in late evenings.

Sanjay enjoying a pleasant and relaxing walk in the lush green surroundings of the Centre! [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

Sanjay enjoys a healthy diet of green fodder (sorghum), pumpkins, raw and ripe bananas as well as his favourite, watermelons. As soon as his keeper fills his cage enrichment with chopped watermelons, Sanjay immediately gobbles them all down, often being clever enough to toy around with the bucket as well!

The biggest elephant under our care is also the kindest and warmest at heart and is extremely cooperative, especially during treatments! [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

He shares a special bond with his keeper who treats Sanjay like an elder brother. On their long walks together, he feeds Sanjay dates and chickpeas to serve as the ultimate motivation to walk. The all-encompassing calming and relaxing aura of the Field of Dreams spells relief for Sanjay who never knew what it was like to be in the wild, in his natural habitat. The cacophony of horns and traffic, added to which his owner’s repeated yells, seldom made him breathe easy. Sanjay, often pauses in his walks, and picks up his trunk out to the sky almost as though feeling the textured freshness of the air that encapsulates him!

Sanjay loves to take the road less traveled and walk in and around the mounds of mud during his walks! [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

By the time, Sanjay was rescued, he had lived more than half of his life in pain and agony.  At the age of 53 years, Sanjay finally gets to be an elephant again surrounded by his own kind, as he enjoys a healthy diet and living a safe and peaceful life.

Sanjay particularly loves cloudy, windy and rainy days and walks at an even slower pace to enjoy the weather! [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak[

You can help Sanjay heal with us at the Wildlife SOS Field of Dreams as we tend to his physical and psychological wounds that will need lifetime care and treatment. Please consider playing a big role in the life of the biggest elephant under our care, by clicking here!

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