AGRA || In a joint operation by Wildlife SOS and Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, a critically ill, 65-year-old elephant was rescued in a four day-long operation and brought to the Elephant Hospital for treatment. The sick elephant has severe foot-rot, osteoarthritis & bedsores. Her condition is representative of nearly 2500 elephants in India, who suffer deprived lives in captivity giving tourists rides, performing at circuses, weddings & begging on streets.
Earlier this week, wildlife conservation charity Wildlife SOS received a call from the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, alerting them to a critically sick elephant in Sitapur requiring urgent medical support. The elephant’s condition was deteriorating rapidly and she had collapsed.
A Wildlife SOS veterinary team reached the elephant with medical equipment to provide immediate relief and assess if she was fit to be transported to the Elephant Hospital for urgent medical care. The elephant was suffering from chronic osteoarthritis of hind limbs and rotten footpads from severe neglect and from walking on hot tar roads.
The Wildlife SOS Veterinary team provided the sick elephant critical medical support for 72 hours, after which the elephant was able to stand up and start moving. Once the Forest Department certified the elephant as fit for transport and written permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden was received, a specially designed Elephant Ambulance was sent by Wildlife SOS to transport the sick elephant to the Elephant Hospital in Mathura for urgent medical care.
This is currently the only Elephant Ambulance in the country. A convoy of vehicles from the UP Forest Department and Wildlife SOS escorted the Elephant Ambulance from Sitapur to Mathura. The ailing elephant was safely transferred to the Elephant Hospital by a team of two veterinary Doctors, expert paramedics and rescuers from Wildlife SOS.
Once the elephant reached the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital, she was given a soft mud and straw bed to lie down on so she could rest and slowly recover from the journey while a dedicated team of experienced elephant vets and elephant care staff carried out Radiology, blood, urine tests to assess her health status.
The Divisional Forest Officer of Sitapur Anirudh Pandey, IFS initiated legal action against the people responsible for the elephant’s severe abuse and neglect and confiscated the elephant before sending the animal to the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital for treatment. It is suspected that the elephant, identified as a 65-year-old female was sold into captivity as a young calf and has since been used as a riding elephant in weddings and processions in Sitapur and for begging.
The life of a “riding elephant” is filled with excruciating pain and labour with little or no access to medical help, nutritious food and fresh water. They are trained using spears, spiked chains & bullhooks that instil severe pain and fear to break the animal’s spirit. The elephants are worked to the bone, with little or no regard for their welfare. A specific campaign www.refusetoride.org aimed at educating the public has been launched.
Sunil Pandey, IFS – PCCF. (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden of Uttar Pradesh said, “We are relieved to see that the elephant in distress has arrived safely at the Elephant Hospital which is a fully equipped facility with expert veterinary care. I am confident that she is now in safe hands.”
Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder & CEO Wildlife SOS said, “We are grateful to the Chief Wildlife Warden of the U.P Forest Department and DFO Sitapur for taking immediate action to help this elephant. The Elephant Hospital and Elephant Ambulance have been useful in helping such critically ill elephants.”
Geeta Seshamani, co-founder & Secretary Wildlife SOS said, “The elephant is severely malnourished and suffering from acute medical issues. The next few days are very critical for her and we are hopeful we can treat her chronic abscesses and rotting footpad.”
Dr. Ilayaraja, Deputy Director Veterinary Division at Wildlife SOS said, “The elephant has several painful, septic wounds on shoulder and hip regions as well as bed sores from lying in the same position that needs frequent dressing. We are providing laser therapy to the joints to bring relief. Her progress is being closely monitored for now while we conduct some more health examinations.”
Wildlife SOS established India’s first Elephant Hospital in collaboration with Uttar Pradesh Forest Department in Mathura, about 20 miles from the Taj Mahal. The Hospital is located adjacent to the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre (ECCC), which is home to over 22 rescued elephants and is equipped with state-of-the-art medical facilities like Digital X-Ray, Laser Therapy, Thermal imaging and Ultrasonography.