This World Elephant Day, learn about Wildlife SOS and its work saving abused pachyderms

There are some organizations that are so phenomenally amazing that I would give them a million dollars if I ever won the Powerball jackpot. One of these is Wildlife SOS.

I first learned about this India-based organization and its wonderful work when its founders, Kartick Satyanarayan and Geeta Seshamani, came to speak to my law school class in Portland in 2012. Kartick exuded such warmth and positivity that I knew this was a very special soul.

Wildlife SOS rescues elephants, bears, and other captive wild animals from lives of misery in circuses and roadside attractions throughout India. The group earned their fame mostly from high-profile rescues of long-suffering elephants. There are few protections for entertainment animals in the U.S; fewer still in India. Captive “begging” elephants, most owned illegally, are made to give rides to tourists and perform unnatural tricks, pounding hot tarmac day in and day out. These animals were only a commodity to the callous humans who owned and kept them.

Many of the elephants the group rescues are advanced in age and have been tortured by their handlers for many decades. Nina, the latest rescue, is 60 years old! They come to Wildlife SOS often emaciated from being underfed and undernourished most of their lives.

Wildlife SOS is a beacon of hope for these gentle and intelligent creatures. The heroes who work there not only physically rescue and remove them from their bondage and transport them to their rehabilitation facility (a feat involving the logistical precision of a military operation and often physical risk to the rescuers and elephant), but a team of skilled and caring veterinarians treat their myriad injuries and ailments, many involving the feet, using laser and other state-of-the-art technology.

Like Nina and Suzy, some of the aged elephants come to them completely blind, or with no teeth.

This is literally the first time in these animals’ lives they have known the kind touch of a human hand and not the bullhook. The first time they have walked on grass, rubbed against a tree trunk, splashed in the water, or played in the mud, natural activities essential to elephants’ wellbeing. At the Wildlife SOS sanctuaries they receive a steady diet of melon, bananas, and sugarcane and even “rescue-versary” cakes made of their favorite fruits and dates. They are protected and pampered until the end of their days.

Most importantly, for the first time they have others of their species to socialize and bond with, and some even become inseparable pals.

Yes, there are scores of charities that work to save elephants in Africa and Asia from poaching. But relatively few in America have heard of this wonderful organization. They got worldwide press seven years ago when they rescued Raju, a half-century old abused elephant, with an ensuing legal battle with his abusive captors who tried to use the court system to get him back. Blessedly, Wildlife SOS prevailed.

Watch Raju’s journey from cruelty to hope here. He is now thriving at their Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Uttar Pradesh.

In 2018. Wildlife SOS established India’s first elephant hospital. They currently care for 30 formerly abused and exploited elephants at their several sanctuaries.

I truly believe that angels work at Wildlife SOS. If I ever found myself in India, I would visit their wonderful facilities.

There are fewer than 22,000 Asian elephants left in the wild. Habitat loss from human encroachment and poaching are their chief threats.

If you choose to support Wildlife SOS and its lifesaving work, you can sponsor one of the many elephants they care for, each with their unique personalities and challenges.

Please indulge me these many photos and embedded videos, all taken from the Wildlife SOS website. I just can’t get enough of happy elephants.

Filed under: animal welfare, wildlife

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