Champa was a begging elephant, spotted walking for hours on the blazing hot tarmac of the Delhi-Agra National Highway in the hot summer months. We first met her on the streets in Agra while rescuing dancing bears and were shocked to see her progressively deteriorate in health. She was severely lame and her limp and a huge abscess on her front leg became more pronounced each passing week. With the efforts of the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department she was finally rescued from a lifetime of servitude.
We like to remember her as the true matriarch of the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre, where she would be the first one to greet new elephants and make them comfortable at their new home. Champa is fondly remembered as the guiding force and the inspiration for our efforts!
Having lived more than fifty years of her life in fear and pain, performing in circuses, commandeered by brutal bullhooks time and again, blind and scarred Sita survived.
When she was rescued from the circus, she was severely malnourished with sunken temples, her front right limb fused owing to an old fracture that wasn’t allowed to heal.
Sita was rescued with her companion elephant, Mia, and their journey to the Wildlife SOS Elephant Care and Conservation Centre at Mathura took over a week as our team braved storms and lashing rain with her.
While Sita lived her life in abuse and neglect, she remained a calm and reserved elephant that had the mental strength and vigor to never give up. Sita is remembered by her best friends, Mia and Rhea as their matriarch and guide.
The unluckiest elephant in the world; Mohan was emaciated, gaunt and without hope when we first met him. This brave elephant had given up waiting for a miracle to happen. After suffering for over five decades in captivity, several failed attempts to rescue him and constantly thwarted by hostile mobs from giving him medical care, Mohan finally reached the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura.
Mohan’s remarkable courage and resilience continues to inspire us. Curiosity marked this battered pachyderm’s every movement as he explored his new home. He ate everything as if it were too precious to be wasted. He enjoyed his long walks savouring mud baths, trees to scratch on, lifting his trunk at the scents the wind brought; soaking and splashing in the pool brought him the greatest joy of all. From Mohan we learnt the ability to forgive and then to live each moment as fully and intensely as he did.
Blinded brutally and used for begging on the streets of Maharashtra, she spent sixty years of her life being abused and tortured, suffering with severe dehydration and starvation at the hands of the man who controlled her. Wildlife SOS rescued her on a cold winter morning but when she reached the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura, she was welcomed with the warmth and love that she needed by her soon-to-be dear friends, Asha and Suzy. Lakhi blossomed in her new surroundings and soon came to be known as the ‘banana thief’ as she grabbed every chance to steal her favorite fruits.
As Lakhi left her injured body that told tales only she would remember, her soul is always going to be around, reminding us and guiding us to take our cause to help elephants further.
Luna spent over fifty years of her life in captivity, begging on the streets suffering from her owner’s indifference to her wounds and failing health. The abuse she was subjected to broke her body and spirit; her hindlegs were deformed, she developed arthritis and oedema, she was in constant pain from her swollen joints. Relief finally came when the Forest Department handed her over to the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital for medical treatment and care.
Although pain was a shadow that followed Luna everywhere, we like to remember her through the lighter moments that she was able to experience with us. Luna found a comforting friend in Holly who showered her with love. She enjoyed the warm winter sun and dust baths. At Wildlife SOS, for the first time Luna experienced comfort and kindness. When the end came Luna was surrounded by people who cared for her including her keepers, vets and her beloved Holly as she gently passed into the night in the arms of angels.
Bella’s story resonated with each and every one of us as she held on to dear life and fought like a warrior. At the age of 65 years, Bella had spent most of her life as a begging elephant who would spend her days walking on unnatural surfaces that pierced through her delicate footpads and caused her pain and discomfort.
Bella’s only chance at a pain-free life came when her body was covered with infected wounds, grave bed sores and an infected ulcer on her temple. From one side, Bella appeared to be a completely normal elephant but the other side of her body acquainted us all with the abusive reality that she survived.
A battered Bella worked with all the strength left in her body to sustain the 10 hour long journey from Sitapur to the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital in Mathura, secured with belts. The veterinarians administered medication to her grave injuries and administered pain medication to give her relief.
Bella was an extremely shy and calm elephant, in spite of being in excruciating pain, she would slowly walk around her enclosure and meticulously examine the soft mud under her torn and infected footpads. There is nothing that she enjoyed more than juicy apples, and nothing that she detested more than consuming oral medication!
As she breathed her last, she escaped a lifetime of abuse and pain, Bella taught us the true meaning of strength and resilience. We hope, each day, that she is surrounded by her favourite apple trees and runs wild wherever she finds peace!
With his frail structure, sunken temples and his tusks, Gajraj walked out of the temple for one last time and an overwhelming crowd of thousands of people, as he walked into the Wildlife SOS Elephant Ambulance to begin his journey to freedom. Gajraj was a gift to the royal family when the Queen got married and became a prized possession of the temple for over 50 years of his life.
When Gajraj took his timid steps to freedom at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura, he suffered from a serious condition of osteoarthritis and footpads torn to a point where there was a risk of infection to his bones! At the age of 70 years, Gajraj became the oldest elephant under our care and the most loved, indeed. Our veterinarians and elephant care staff curated a specialised geriatric care routine for him and he was rendered treatment for the grave abscesses on his hip, his cuticles and his toenails.
An extremely docile elephant, Gajraj would love relaxing mud baths in his enclosure and enjoyed munching on his favourite mangoes and sugarcanes. His demise brought us face to face with the worst thing of 2020 and reduced his keeper and the entire staff to tears. Even in his final moments, Gajraj rested on his mudbed, surrounded by the people who loved and cared for him.
We hope Gajraj watches over us, just as we look up to him, and his now-barren enclosure, remembering him for his grit, valour and vigour!