Trunk Tales: Rajesh And His Regal Trumpets!

July 25, 2023 | By Natasha Ashok
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Lights, glitter, and music of the circus fascinated many of us in our childhood. However, behind this spectacle was a sad reality for the animals involved, including elephants. These majestic pachyderms were reduced to mere objects of entertainment for people’s pleasure. Calves were forcibly separated from their mothers and put through harsh training to perform unnatural and demanding tricks, such as balancing on a ball or standing on their hindlimbs. Furthermore, they were confined and chained in small, dark, and unhygienic places for hours on end. Rajesh was one such victim of this cruel trade.

Our trumpeter Rajesh enjoys going on his morning and evening walks. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/ Suryoday Singh Mann]

Rajesh was rescued in 2012 after he had experienced more than a decade of abuse and neglect as a performing circus elephant. When he arrived at the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre (ECCC), Rajesh’s legs were incredibly weak due to his confinement on unnatural, cemented, or harsh surfaces for prolonged periods. This was not all: Rajesh had faced immense psychological torture as well. Mentally and emotionally scarred, Rajesh developed deep-seated fear and distrust of humans, which led him to display stereotypical behaviour like head-bobbing. Even simple acts like resting became a challenge for him, and his distress was evident through his loud trumpets when the veterinary team approached him for treatment.

Rajesh undergoes daily target training using positive reinforcement techniques, including treats, to help him cooperate well during his treatment sessions. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/ Suryoday Singh Mann]

However, through the unwavering dedication and patience of his caregivers and veterinarians, Rajesh gradually regained his health and trust in humans. Due to his stint as a performing elephant, he had to endure the effects of strained joints and bones and this led to a severe case of arthritis. His delicate foot pads were also badly torn, which made walking painful for him. To urgently address his various health issues, plans for his medical treatment as well as his diet plan were charted out for Rajesh. While regular supplements were added to his food, medicated foot baths of Epsom salt and turmeric were also prescribed. The latter helped to heal and provide some much-needed relief to his aching foot pads. Regular cleaning and trimming of his toenails further contributed to the improvement of his leg, allowing him to finally enjoy his long walks.

During this process, Rajesh’s temperament also underwent a remarkable transformation: He was gradually becoming more gentle and calm. While Rajesh tends to remain aloof from unknown people, he has been able to form a remarkable bond of trust with his caregivers.

Rajesh and his caregiver share a special bond where the caregiver is quick to understand Rajesh’s needs and his moods. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/ Mradul Pathak]

Today, ECCC still rings with the sound of Rajesh’s trumpets. However, this time around, his resonant calls carry a friendly tone. His caregivers can easily decode the nature of his calls, identifying the one he often uses to signal his appetite! If, by chance, the caregivers arrive with no treats to offer, a disapproving trumpet is loudly made. Rajesh’s expressive rumbles echo through the air and have become an integral part of the centre. In these moments, one can notice a subtle smile on the faces of the staff as they fondly acknowledge the unique connection this amazing elephant has forged over the years.

Rajesh enjoys spending time in the pool to cool down when it is hot and also during musth, a periodic phenomenon experienced by male elephants. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/ Mradul Pathak]

Over time, Rajesh has established a wonderful bond with his caregivers, veterinarians, and the general environment of ECCC. He eagerly embarks on his daily walks in the morning and in the evening. He uses this time to graze abundantly and also to indulge in playful dust bathing. Between walks, Rajesh engages with the diverse enrichment feeders placed in various locations across his enclosure. Additionally, one can find him enjoying a relaxing and refreshing dip in the pool within his enclosure, especially during musth.

Rajesh is now 43 years of age, and his health is carefully supervised by our veterinarians. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/ Mradul Pathak]

Since he is a bull elephant, Rajesh lives by himself in a vast field of his own. However, sometimes, one can hear him trumpeting to his neighbouring bulls, Wally and Suraj. This harmonious coexistence showcases Rajesh’s contentment within his surroundings and the meaningful links he has fostered with both humans and fellow pachyderms. It has been delightful to witness how he has changed from being a traumatised elephant to one that is highly content and communicative.

If you are interested in supporting regal Rajesh and the rest of the elephants like him at our centres, please click here.

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