Trunk Tales: Taj And Tara’s Journey Of Healing With Wildlife SOS

April 3, 2024 | By Neellohit Banerjee
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It all started with a lengthy discussion. We never knew what was awaiting at the end of the discussion, but when it ended, we were standing at the crossroads of an almost historic moment. Discussions, though tedious, can often prove to be fruitful. Usually dialogues with exploitative elephant owners don’t end with a positive outcome, and mostly lead to conflicts and legal court tussles. But this time turned out to be different, where the elephant owner ceded.

Despite being older to Taj (left), Tara is short and stout in her appearance. [Image © Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

The owner agreed to hand over his ailing elephants to Wildlife SOS on the condition of temporary care. Soon, an agreement was reached through which we were able to bring these two elephants not only for focussed treatment, but to an environment that is suitable to them. These male and female elephants – later named Taj and Tara respectively – are now under long-term care at our Elephant Hospital Campus in Mathura.

How Their Story Began

Tara, a 26-year-old female and Taj, a 19-year-old male are our Elephants of the Month, so let’s take a journey through their tale. Both the elephants come from a traumatic past, and were being used for begging purposes on the streets of Uttar Pradesh. Being freed from commercial exploitation, the two arrived at the centre as severely malnourished and emaciated elephants, with swollen limbs, torn footpads and joint disorders, including dermatitis.

It was not all rosy as Taj arrived displaying a temperamental disposition, along with a limp in his hindlimb and a septic abscess on his footpad. Tara, on the other hand, faced colic issues that caused her immense pain and a low appetite. She also suffered from dermatitis in her limbs, for which Tara was treated with coconut oil and an antifungal paste containing aloe vera and turmeric.

Tara undergoing an X-ray at the treatment area of the hospital. [Image © Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

However, the most unique part of their story is yet to come. When they arrived in 2023, Taj and Tara became the first male and female elephants to share an enclosure space. It was not based solely on compatibility. Elephants are known to have high cognitive abilities, which led Taj and Tara to form a profound bond forged through shared trauma and mutual comfort. Remaining together, being side by side, getting treatment and providing each other solace, their connection resembles that of an older sister offering support to her troubled younger sibling.

The Healing Journey of the Elephants

Nearly a year has passed since Taj and Tara have been receiving their respective medical treatments, and our veterinary team’s efforts are visible from the improvement in their overall health. Taj bore spiked chain wounds on his hind legs that had hindered his movements, which is what the team addressed initially.

For these wounds, as well as for Taj’s hind leg limping issue, the veterinary team administered laser therapy, medicated foot baths and fluid therapy, along with fomentation, all of which brought remarkable improvement in Taj’s feet condition. Now he is receiving multivitamin supplements and liver tonic as part of his treatment. 

Regular laser therapy massages provided to Taj have helped in his leg and joint problems. [Image © Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

To tackle Tara’s colic issues, the vets provided herbal medicines in the form of oral medication. This is supplemented by essential multivitamins to enhance her musculoskeletal health.

In the months that recently went by, Taj and Tara experienced their first ever winter with the Wildlife SOS family. Among the many firsts were the bonfires that our team set up as a source of warmth for the two, spelling respite from the chilly nights in Mathura. Additionally, Tara also donned blankets provided by our team as she displayed a little more sensitivity to cold than Taj!

We provided a blanket to Tara due to her sensitivity to cold. [Image © Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

Winter care management of elephants at our centres brings with it many elements. Enclosures are covered with tarpaulin sheets from three sides during this season, and sodium and halogen lights installed provide necessary artificial warmth. A masala concoction is incorporated in their meals to induce heat in their bodies. Taj and Tara also received soothing oil massages for relief and effective blood circulation on chilly days.

The cherry on top of Taj and Tara’s winter was their first ever Christmas celebration at Wildlife SOS. The elephant care staff put on their Santa hats and costumes, and rewarded the two with treats and green fodder aplenty!

A change in the season sees a different side of Taj during his walk. [Image © Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

Looking Forward

The friendship between Taj and Tara is in full bloom, and they go out on walks together with their common caregiver. He does not forget to carry with himself two bags full of roasted grams and peanuts to keep them motivated throughout the duration of the walk. Both Taj and Tara also undergo target training sessions twice a day on a regular basis.

When they go out for walks, our dedicated elephant care staff ensure to clean their enclosures thoroughly. In order to keep them physically active and stimulated, berseem and sugarcane are inserted in the hanging cage feeders that act as attractive enrichments for the two. Meanwhile, when the two are out amidst the green natural environment, Taj often extends his trunk toward Tara. It almost gives the impression of him checking on Tara and confirming that she’s not facing any discomfort.

Tara enjoys her walks out amidst the green natural environment. [Image © Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

Both the elephants’ diet consists of fresh, seasonal veggies and fruits that take care of their nourishment. Watermelon, jackfruit, cucumber, bottle gourd, pumpkin and bananas comprise their diet of delicious assortments. Since the elephants are fond of the fruits, the vets cleverly place the tablets inside them that allows for their smooth consumption. This is especially helpful for Taj as it helps to enhance joint wellness.

Taj and Tara relishing a grand fruit feast. [Image © Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori]

In their unfortunate past, Taj and Tara would trudge on the streets of Uttar Pradesh in and around the same area. It was in a fortunate turn of events that the two were finally freed from the task of begging, and got the chance to step into a serene environment beside one another. It took a bit of luck, a pinch of persuasion and a whole lot of hard work to have them at the Elephant Hospital Campus.

As fate would have it, this tale of bond and companionship turned out to be unlike any other. Taj and Tara have shown considerable improvements till now, but their treatment is still ongoing so as to secure holistic healing for both. Taking care of these jumbos requires expertise, time and financial expenses. You too can take a big step towards their long-term care by becoming a monthly donor for Wildlife SOS.

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