December 27, 2015
Elephant Freed From 20-years of Captivity and Abuse in India
Bath time: In the safety of his new Wildlife SOS home, Suraj cakes himself in dirt as he enjoys his first dust bath.
This 45-year-old elephant has been confined to a 12ft square room for 20 years. All four feet are chained, he is forced to lie in his own faeces, and he hasn’t seen daylight for over a year.
Suraj is perilously thin, has a broken tail and is missing an ear, probably torn off when he was captured as a calf. He is kept at the Martand Temple in the state of Maharashtra in central India, where locals file past him to take selfies, oblivious to his suffering.
Suraj, which means ‘Sunny’, used to leave his dank space just once a year – to be paraded in a religious procession. But since last year, when he was so upset by the crowds that he was driven mad and caused a stampede in which one person died, he has not been outside his room.
Now he has just been given the best Christmas present ever – he has been liberated from his chains. The news follows our report in August about the plight of the estimated 600 temple elephants of India – starved, abused and chained to the same spot for decades.
Suraj came to the attention of Wildlife SOS, the charity whose conservation centre outside New Delhi I visited during the summer. After months of legal wrangling, a 20-strong task force from the charity, plus 70 officers from the police and local forestry department turned up at the temple at 2am last Monday to set him free: the heavies were necessary as rumours had been circulating that the elephant’s handlers, called mahouts, would take their anger out on their charge to prevent him leaving.
[. . .]
Kartick said: ‘Watching Suraj step off the truck into the sunshine and enjoy his first dust bath was an emotional experience for all of us.
'Knowing he’ll never suffer another day of pain again made all the risks we took to rescue him worth it.’
To all those readers who shared our original story around the world, and the thousands who signed petitions and sent donations – this rescue cost £10,000, while £86,000 will be needed to fund the elephant’s care over the next 12 months – Suraj thanks you from the bottom of his enormous heart.
The great elephant rescue: How a one-eared temple elephant braved a baying mob to escape the tiny room that was his prison after the Mail On Sunday exposed his plight
45-year-old elephant had been confined to 12ft square room for 20 years
Poor animal was perilously thin, had a broken tail and was missing an ear
Suraj liberated after volunteers and 70 police officers went to Indian temple
Finally arrived at a sanctuary on Christmas Eve after a 930-mile journey
By Liz Jones For The Mail On Sunday
Published: 17:03 EST, 26 December 2015 | Updated: 22:37 EST, 26 December 2015
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