“If I keep her in pain, it is my leverage to make her listen to me. If she is healthy and happy, then it becomes difficult for me to control her,” said Lakshmi’s captor.
We never stop to think if the elephants that we see at the temples, wedding processions, or even those that give us joy rides are treated well. Many of us are excited to witness this huge graceful animal turn the tap to have a drink of water that we do not stop to deliberate about the repercussions about trying to domesticate a wild animal. Would you be surprised if you met an elephant who did not know what to do at the sight of a lake? Have you wondered if this mammal you take blessings from at the temple even knows how to survive in the wild?
Lakshmi is a 60-year-old elephant captured when she was a baby and illegally traded hands multiple times until she was recently rescued from a man who could not care less about her well-being. Judging her physical and mental condition, her rescuers estimate that she has been used as a commercial elephant most of her life, chained up in a dark room if she was not working, and abused with a stick as a constant reminder that she had to follow her master’s orders.
The Unnatural Domestication
In the wild, elephants form deep bonds with the female members of the family. They usually live in herds led by the oldest and largest female. When a calf is born, it is protected and raised by the entire herd. As they have excellent memories spanning several years, they pass down lessons from their past, teaching the young how to forage for edibles, where to find watering holes during the dry seasons, and more such tricks to help survive in the wilderness.
Unfortunately, when you capture a calf, she misses these lessons, and ends up learning from her human. Lakshmi only knows eats what her master feeds her. Most of this food is not suitable diet for an elephant. In fact, it is far less than 300 kilos of food she should be eating every day. She would not know which plant is edible if you presented her with choices, leave alone forage in the forest.
It is important to know that elephants are sensitive animals that show emotions like joy, anger, grief and playfulness. They remember everything that happens around them, which is why fear plays a great role in conditioning their responses. Lakshmi was forced to carry the stick that was used to punish her. She was not only in constant mental agony, but was also in physical pain for several years.(Lakshmi's foot rot)
Think Again When You See An Elephant On The Street
An elephant’s feet are very much like ours with soft and sensitive soles that get abrasions, calluses, abscesses, overgrown nails, and pad separation when they are made to stand or walk for long hours on concrete floors, tar roads, and rough and other hot surfaces. Lakshmi has one of the worst cases of foot rot ever seen as she was subject to such a terrible life. As her foot was split into many parts, she has been treated, and made to wear special shoes until she heals.(Lakshmi's new shoes)
School Of Basics
Being rescued is not the happy ending for this elephant. It is merely the beginning. For she lacks any skill that she requires to live independently. Apart from being emotionally traumatized by her past experiences, she is also not used to nature like normal elephants. She would simply stare if she were to see a lake for the first time instead of splashing around in the water. She does not know what to do when she is in a forest. She needs someone to teach her now, like in a herd.(Aneesha forages in the pasture)
New Home With New Hope
In Malur, there is a home waiting for Lakshmi with another rescued elephant, Aneesha. Spread over 2 acres of green pasture, this home has been created just so that Lakshmi can have her freedom to walk around, discover and get acquainted with nature after so many decades of being locked in a coop.
(Aneesha in the water)
An elephant spends almost 6 hours in the water every day. Lakshmi has been standing for hours together for decades causing her muscles to atrophy. For this reason, her new home will have a hydrotherapy pool to help rehabilitate her muscles. The team along with Aneesha hope to care for Lakshmi and help her rest, recover, eat, play, and get accustomed to the elephant way of life.
What can you do for Lakshmi?
(Aneesha with a friend)
Lakshmi was too weak to travel when she was initially rescued. She has been recovering at an animal care farm in Palani. She requires your support to help her travel to her new home in Malur where she can meet Aneesha and the people who will help her remember how to be a real elephant. For 60 years, Lakshmi was imprisoned and abused. It is time to set her free, and give her a new life.
Your contribution would help this elephant go home where she belongs.
Break up of funds:
|Truck Hire Cost to Transport Lakshmi to the Malur Elephant Rescue Centre for an 18 hour journey||Rs. 40,000|
|Food (veggies/fodder) for the journey||Rs. 10,000|
|Accompanying staff + veterinarian||Rs. 30,000|
|Reinforced steel frame enclosure for Lakshmi at the new Malur facility - lakhs inclusive of material, labour and construction costs||Rs. 4,60,000|