For most of us growing up in India, captive elephants seem to be an integral part of our cultural landscape. We are used to seeing them at festivals, in temples, in circuses, on safaris, in plantations and even on the road, begging for alms. The chains around their feet, the stoic expression on their faces all seem part and parcel of their captive existence and not many of us doubt that they are loved and revered by their mahouts (elephant keeper), owners and of course, they are a big draw for devotees who want to be blessed by this reincarnation of Lord Ganesha.
However, the truth behind commercial elephant captivity in India is not as romantic. It is in fact, a relentless life spent on concrete floors, dark airless rooms with asbestos roofs, inadequate nutrition or access to water, little or no opportunity to interact with other members of their species and poor medical care. Needless to say, they also have to bear and an unending parade of weddings, temple festivities and other commercial activities that they have to perform in, at risk of being beaten if disobedient. How many of us would be comfortable knowing that the richly decorated elephant with bells hiding her chains, is actually suffering every minute of her inescapable life of slavery?
Elephants cannot ever be completely domesticated, what is true for a wild elephant is similarly applicable to a captive elephant. So, if a wild elephant lives in a herd, forages for food, eats over 300 kilos of fodder in a day, spends hours wallowing in swampy mud pastures, or soaking in lakes, migrates over large distances, lays down to sleep, or mates and has children, or even socializes, then each of these activities are necessary for a captive elephant to have a safe, healthy and productive life.
Sadly, almost none of India’s 3500-4000 captive elephants have that luxury in its entirety, and for elephants held for temple duties, or commercial events, none of this is possible. Elephants are protected under the Schedule I of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, but due to our historical, social and religious context, those held in captivity are excluded from this protection. It is time to change this narrative.
Lakshmi was captured from the wild as a baby, she is 60 years old today, and she has spent that entire time in captivity, living in a dark room, performing commercial activities, and having no opportunity to remember that she ever had a wild past.
She suffers from terrible medical neglect, with one of the worst cases of foot rot ever seen. Most captive elephants are prone to foot problems for example foot rot, abscesses, overgrown nails and cuticles and pad separation, which do not occur in the wild because they are walking on natural surfaces that take care of these issues.
She has a home waiting for her and a new friend, another rescued elephant called Aneesha. This new home is spread over 2 acres of green pasture, with a new hydrotherapy pool being constructed, and many opportunities to play, rest, eat well and spend the retirement years in a cruelty-free and safe environment. We need to raise enough money to facilitate her transport to Malur, and we cannot do it without the support of committed and caring individuals such as you.
Lakshmi has given 60 years in the service of humans at the cost of her health and happiness. She deserves a second chance at living a life that nature always intended for her.
Please help us to make this possible. She has been treated for her foot problems and even has special shoes to wear till she’s better. She’s ready now to make her journey to her final home. Her paperwork is in order and the team is ready for her arrival. All we need is your support to help Lakshmi live her new life.Break up of funds: