Elephants are one of the most intelligent, empathetic, and loyal beings on the planet but about 4,000 of them live in captivity in India, mostly in the states of Assam, Kerala, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu. Most are used for tourism purposes and religious ceremonies against their will.
As can be expected, life in captivity for elephants in India is not glamorous. At a young age, the pachyderm is separated from his or her mother and then its spirit is “broken” through a traditional practice that was birthed in India.
One Green Planet reports, “Baby elephants are taken from their mothers at a very young age, usually three to six years old, but often younger. After a young elephant is in the captivity of its handlers, the aim of the Phajaan program is to break its spirit. Babies will be kept in small crates similar to those found in the intensive pig farming industry. Their feet will be tied with ropes, their limbs will be stretched, they will be repeatedly beaten with sharp metal and other tools, they will be constantly yelled and screamed at, and they will be starved of food. Bull hooks (a tool used in most forms of elephant control) will be used to stab the head, slash the skin and tug the ears.”
The process understandably results in submissive behavior from the elephant in most cases. And after years of living in captivity in sub-par conditions, it is not uncommon for numerous medical conditions to develop. It is for this reason that Wildlife SOS founded the first elephant hospital in India. GoodNewsNetwork reports that the medical center for pachyderms was established in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh by the animal welfare group, a nonprofit organization that has been rescuing wild animals across India since 1995.
Wildlife SOS recognized the need for an elephant hospital and founded the first one in India. Employees and volunteers with the organization hope this facility raises awareness about the plight elephants face in India and other South-East Asian countries.
In 2018, Wildlife SOS opened the first-ever elephant hospital in the holy Hindu town of Mathura in India. In just the first few months, a total of 26 elephants were rescued from abusive tourists’ attractions like circuses, temples, riding camps, and private owners and provided treatment.
On checking into the hospital, an elephant is given a thorough examination by one of the center’s veterinarians. Most animals enter in poor physical condition due to years of neglect and malnutrition That is why the facility was specially designed to treat injured, sick, and geriatric elephants.
The state-of-the-art hospital which spans over 12,000 square feet has portable radiology machines, laser therapy, an in-house pathology lab, and a medical hoist for lifting disabled or sedated elephants around the treatment area. For regular check-ups, there is a jumbo-sized digital weight scale, laboratory testing capabilities, and a hydrotherapy pool.
The elephant hospital also provides ultrasound machines and specialized foot-care tools. For observing animals overnight, the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital is equipped with special quarters with infrared cameras. This allows veterinarians to observe the elephants throughout the night.
Patient pachyderms at the elephant hospital are given the highest quality of care and plenty of bananas. Once they are treated, they are sent off to one of two Wildlife SOS elephant sanctuaries in India viz. the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura or the Elephant Rescue Centre in Yamunanagar.