Shackled ‘Elephant’ to Tell Forest Department: Free Aged, Ailing Gajraj Now

For Immediate Release:
21 April 2017

Neerja Khede; [email protected]
Shambhavi Tiwari; [email protected]

Animal Rights Groups Will Join to Demand Release of Abused and Psychologically Traumatised Elephant

Pune, Maharashtra – A chained “elephant” will lead a coalition of volunteers from animal rights organisations – including PETA India, People for Animals, Action for Animals Against Cruelty and Trauma,  Animal Law Enforcement Rescue Team, Blue Cross Society of Pune, Happy Animals, Changemakers Welfare Foundation, Janice’s Trust, Jeev Raksha and others – on Saturday in an urgent appeal to the Maharashtra Forest Department to free Gajraj, a 63-year-old elephant who has been held in solitary confinement for half a century. Holding banners and posters that read, “Forest Department: Free Gajraj”, protesters will appeal to the Forest Department to send him to an elephant-care centre where he can receive much-needed veterinary treatment, roam freely, feel the warmth of the sun on his back, bathe in pools, and enjoy the crucial company of other elephants.

When: Saturday, 22 April, 12 noon sharp
Where: Outside the main gate (the green gate) of the Office of the Chief Conservator of Forest (Territorial), Vanbhavan Bhamburda Van Vihar Gokhale Nagar, Pune

Photos and video from a recent eyewitness investigation show Gajraj – who’s in the custody of the Rani of Aundh, Ms Gayatridevi Bhagwantrao Pantpratinidhi, in Aundh, Maharashtra – with overgrown and broken toenails, infected abscesses on his hindquarters and elbows, and open sores around his ankles caused by his heavy chains. He was filmed swaying back and forth and bobbing his head – signs of severe stress. The tips of his tusks were cut off without obtaining necessary permission from the Forest Department, which is mandatory per the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

“Gajraj is denied everything that’s natural and important to him, and it’s clear that he is passing his days in agony”, says Manoj Oswal, regional head for Maharashtra at People for Animals. “We are calling on the Forest Department to relinquish him to a reputable elephant-care centre where he may receive veterinary treatment and live out his final days in peace and free from chains.”

The campaign is supported by numerous celebrities – including Jacqueline Fernandez, Athiya Shetty, Suniel Shetty, Sunny Leone, Sidharth Malhotra, and Sonakshi Sinha. Wildlife SOS also assured Jacqueline that it will work towards getting Gajraj transferred to its elephant-rescue centre.

Elephants in the wild are active for 18 hours per day, foraging for fresh vegetation, playing, bathing in rivers, and travelling as far as 30 miles a day. Elephants in captivity are denied the opportunity to traverse vast distances and often suffer from foot problems and arthritis owing to a lack of exercise and long hours spent standing on hard surfaces. They can develop neurotic and self-harming behaviour, and many die prematurely.

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 just a short distance from the Yamai Devi temple and the Shri Bhavani Museum, popular tourist destinations in Aundh village, Satara district.

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