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Gajraj the ailing bull elephant was used in temple processions for over 51 years.The magnificent tusker has finally retired from his life in captivity and has been transferred to the lifetime care of Wildlife SOS at their Elephant Care and Conservation Center (ECCC) in Mathura .
For over 51 years, 70 year old elephant ‘Gajraj’ from the Royal family of Aundh, in the Satara district of Maharashtra performed his duties as a temple elephant where local devotees saw him as an icon of worship as he played an important role in festivities and temple processions.
Advancing age and being chained for most of the day has had a detrimental effect on Gajraj’s health.
He was found to be suffering from nutritional deficiencies and several medical issues like partial blindness, foot and hip abscesses and severe degeneration of foot pads which makes him prone to lameness and foot injuries due to soft tissue exposure.
Last week, the saga of this magnificent tusker took a dramatic turn for the better! Gajraj’s plight was brought to attention by a PETA campaign and as concerned elephant lovers from around the world learned about Gajraj’s medical condition, thousands of requests for Wildlife SOS to intervene and help him poured in.
The wildlife rescue and rehabilitation NGO soon launched a rescue mission to move the aging pachyderm to their Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura, for long term medical treatment and lifetime care.
The royal family of Aundh consented to handing Gajraj over to the organisation and gave him a warm farewell.
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The local villagers however became very emotional and hostile as Gajraj was getting ready to leave, gathering in large numbers with things taking an ugly twist as the mob became unruly. A large police force was deployed to ensure protection for the Wildlife SOS rescue team who were there on the request of the Maharashtra Forest Department.
Eventually the elephant was placed inside the Elephant Ambulance – currently India’s only specially designed elephant ambulance. He then embarked on a 1500 km journey along with expert veterinarians, paramedics, elephant caretakers and rescue team to his new home in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh.
They ensured that Gajraj remained comfortable and hydrated throughout the long journey, making sure he got enough green fodder, refreshing baths and made multiple pit stops for him to rest.
As the Elephant Ambulance arrived at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Center, Gajraj first gingerly tested the ground with his trunk before gently placing his foot out of the vehicle after which he walked with no chains on his feet for the first time, accompanied by compassionate elephant keepers and veterinarians to his new home, where he will live without any fear, neither will he be forced to work at a temple or at ceremonies ever again!
Within a few short minutes of stepping into the center, the team could see a marked change in the behaviour of the elephant.
He immediately took to the new surroundings, gorging on fruits and taking dust baths. Gajraj can now be seen spending his day leisurely munching on fresh fruits and green fodder while splashing about in his personal pool. The veterinarians have started treating him with daily medicated foot soaks and draining his abscesses, while providing him a special diet along with nutritional supplements to help regain his strength.
His on-going medical treatment, feeding, and lifetime care will be supported entirely by Wildlife SOS. You can help support Gajraj’s lifetime care and treatment by becoming a monthly donor with Wildlife SOS here: http://bit.ly/2sWMnV7
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