Maharashtra Government Inspection Confirms: Elephant Gajraj is Suffering

For Immediate Release:
29 May 2017

Dr Manilal Valliyate; [email protected]
Shambhavi Tiwari; [email protected]

Two Lakh People Worldwide Appeal to State for Gajraj’s Release

Mumbai, Maharashtra – The inspection reports prepared by veterinarians authorised by the Maharashtra Forest Department – copiesof which People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India has obtained – confirm that the 63-year-old elephant Gajraj suffers from weakness, untreated prolonged abscesses on his hindquarters and elbows,and other painful foot conditions. The reports also reveal that his housing conditions are inadequate, that the uncovered chain used for tethering him poses a risk of injuries to his legs, and that the current custodian failed to maintain even basic health-care records, such as treatment, deworming, and vaccination registers.The custodian also failed to implant a microchip, which is mandatory per the Indian government’s “Guidelines for Care and Management of Captive Elephants”. The reports conclude that the present management practices are grossly inadequate and that there’s a lack of veterinary expertise and facilities locally, so to relieve Gajraj from pain and suffering, he must be rehabilitated at a recognised elephant care centre.

Following the findings and recommendations of the inspection reports and upon the request of the Maharashtra Forest Department, Wildlife SOS – a renowned non-governmental organisation engaged in the rehabilitation of rescued captive elephants in India – has now confirmed that it is willing to accept Gajraj for long-term medical treatment and lifetime care at the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura, subject to permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden of Uttar Pradesh.

The inspection reports are available upon request.

The Forest Department ordered the inspection of Gajraj following complaints from PETA India. The organisation showed the department photos and video ofthe elephant– who’s currently in the custody of the Rani of Aundh, Ms Gayatri Devi Bhagwant Rao Pant Pratinidhi, in Aundh, Maharashtra, enduring the conditions described in the latest government inspection reports. PETA’s video included footage of Gajraj swaying back and forth and bobbing his head – signs of severe stress. The tips of his tusks were cut off without the necessary permission from the Forest Department, which is mandatory per the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Gajraj – who’s believed to have been taken from his home in the wild in 1965, when he was just 12 years old – is being kept a short distance from the Yamai Devi Temple and the Shri Bhavani Museum, popular tourist destinations in Aundh village, Satara district.

Gajraj’s plight has attracted worldwide attention: two lakh individuals have sent messages to the state government requesting the elephant’s release through online action alerts hosted on the websites of PETA India and its international affiliates.

“PETA appreciates the effort of the Maharashtra Forest Department to recognise Gajraj’s sorry state and to acknowledge he needs professional care at an elephant care centre,”says Dr Manilal Valliyate, PETA India Director of Veterinary Affairs. “He has been living in chains since Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister in the ’60s. The world has changed, but his life has continued to be one of loneliness and misery for the last 50 years. We implore the Maharashtra Forest Department to grant this elderly gentleman the freedom he deserves and the urgent expert veterinary care he needs in his final years.”

The campaign to #FreeGajraj is supported by numerous celebrities – including Jacqueline FernandezAthiya Shetty, Suniel Shetty, Sunny LeoneSidharth Malhotra, and Sonakshi Sinhawho’ve all shared information about his plight on social media. Wildlife SOS also assured Fernandez and Malhotra that it will work towards getting Gajraj transferred to its elephant rescue centre.

A scandal is growing over the way elephants used in Indian temples to represent the Hindu god Ganesha are being housed and mistreated. These captive elephants typically suffer because of lack of exercise and years spent standing in one position on hard concrete surfaces amid their own waste, which can lead to painful and crippling foot ailments and arthritis. Frustrated captive Indian elephants commonly harm or kill their mahouts or others around them.

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