Rescuing India’s 67 Remaining Circus Elephants

November 24, 2014 | By wildlife@dmin
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After eradicating the brutal, centuries-old practice of dancing bears in India, Wildlife SOS is now ready to take the first steps toward rescuing all of the remaining 67 circus elephants in India.

In the first phase of this campaign, Wildlife SOS plans to facilitate the rescue of 17 elephants.

Wildlife SOS is launching a fundraising campaign to raise funds for the first phase of the circus elephant project to cover investigations, legal costs, rescue process, transport after rescue, and getting the elephants settled in their new homes. One of the circus elephants in need of immediate and urgent rescue is a female named Suzy (name changed to protect her identity).

Suzy is blind and is suffering from very poor health. Confused and lost, she is forced to stand in her own dung and urine for days. She remains chained all the time except when she is forced to perform tricks. Suzy’s mental and physical health status is very poor due to a complete lack of veterinary care, no regular exercise, no enrichment, and an unbalanced diet with poor nutrition. She is in a great deal of pain. To top it all, her dental health is severely compromised, as indicated by undigested food in her dung. She is suffering, but there is no one to help her.

“We have placed Suzy at the top of our priority list for rescue, and hope to bring her to our elephant care center in the near future,” said Geeta Seshamani, co-founder of Wildlife SOS. “And with the help of caring people around the world, and the cooperation of the Government, she will be just one of more than a dozen elephants we will be able to rescue from the sad circus life in 2015.”


  • Project Elephant, a multi-faceted project designed to help elephants both wild and captive, was launched in 1992 by the Government of India. Very few countries have taken this initiative. This is a major step for protecting Asian elephants in India and a role model for other countries to follow.
  • Project Elephant, under the able leadership of the Honourable Minister of Environment & Forests – Mr Prakash Javadekarhas, facilitated the creation of the first elephant rehabilitation center in Haryana in collaboration with Wildlife SOS and Haryana Forest Department. This facility currently houses three rescued elephants with a capacity to house upto 50 elephants.
  • The Government of India had in 1998 banned the use of wild animals like tigers, bears, leopards, lions and monkeys in circuses.
  • Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has issued show cause notices to circuses found lacking in animal welfare. Severe lack of welfare for elephants has been documented.


  • Despite the ban on animal performances in circuses, they are forced to perform illegally, and continue to be beaten or they are kept chained up with no relief and endure poor care and a deprived diet as they are no longer money makers for their owners.
  • Elephants are often kept shackled by all four legs, even when they aren’t performing, Animals used in Indian circuses endure a lifetime of slavery & misery. Elephants are confined to cramped and unhygienic spaces in which they defecate,urinate, eat, drink, and sleep — all in the same place.
  • Their access to fresh drinking water, food and veterinary care is severely restricted.
  • Undercover videos have shown that elephants are beaten with sharp hooks and shocked with electric prods to train them to perform.


  • In July 2014, Wildlife SOS received worldwide recognition for rescuing Raju, a working elephant who had been severely mistreated and kept in spiked chains for 50 years.
  • Wildlife SOS has rescued and rehabilitated 12 elephants from all over India till date. Several of the rescued elephants were used in circuses as well.
  • Wildlife SOS established India’s first modern elephant care center which does not use ankush (bullhooks), spiked chains or any cruel management practices to control elephants.
  • The objective of the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Welfare Project is to protect elephants by creating awareness about the plight of elephants in India. This project advocates use of modern and cruelty free methods of elephant management and training.
  • Wildlife SOS is dedicated to help rescue the 67 remaining elephants in Indian circuses.

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