For Immediate Release:
14 June 2017
After 200,000 Supporters of PETA India and Its Affiliates Demand Traumatised Elephant’s Release, Cheers Go Up as Forest Department Moves Him to Elephant-Care Centre
Pune, Maharashtra – After more than 50 years of being chained near the popular tourist spots Shri Bhavani Museum and Yamai Devi temple in Aundh, Satara, Gajraj has finally been rescued. The elderly, ailing elephant, whose appalling treatment sparked a global #FreeGajraj campaign led by PETA India and supported by its affiliates all over the world, is on his way to the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre (ECCC) in Mathura – a collaborative project of Wildlife SOS and Uttar Pradesh Forest Department – to receive vital veterinary treatment and enjoy the crucial company of fellow elephants after a lonely life. PETA arranged for Wildlife SOS to take him in and has paid to build his new home. Gajraj was rescued with the support of the Maharashtra Forest Department.
The Maharashtra Forest Department’s much-applauded decision to rescue the ailing Gajraj comes after more than 200,000 supporters of PETA India and its affiliates pushed for his release. In April, Maharashtra government–appointed veterinarians confirmed PETA veterinarians’ earlier findings that he’s suffering from weakness and untreated prolonged abscesses on his hindquarters and elbows, as well as painful foot conditions, and that his custodian has failed to maintain even basic health-care records, such as treatment, deworming, and vaccination registers, adding to suspicions that no such care has been given in years. Videos from a recent PETA eyewitness investigation showed Gajraj swaying back and forth and bobbing his head – signs of severe stress-induced behaviour.
“After half a century Gajraj’s suffering, PETA thanks all those involved and rejoices for this old, ailing elephant, who’s now on his way to safety,” says PETA Director of Veterinary Affairs Dr Manilal Valliyate. “Although the Indian government declared elephants our national heritage animals with the goal of stepping up measures for their protection, Gajraj has known only misery and neglect for decades. But now, cheers have gone up because of the Maharashtra Forest Department’s action – he will be able to roam, bathe in ponds, and be in the company of other elephants.”
PETA – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way” – notes that elephants in the wild live in matriarchal herds and are active for 18 hours a day, foraging for fresh vegetation, playing, bathing in rivers, and travelling as far as 50 kilometres. Elephants in captivity are denied the opportunity to roam vast distances and often suffer from foot problems and arthritis because of long periods spent standing on hard surfaces. They can develop neurotic and self-harming behaviour, and many die prematurely.
Gajraj is thought to have been taken from the wild as a 12-year-old in 1965. He was then forced to make the 800-kilometre journey from Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, to Satara, Maharashtra, which reportedly took a month and a half.
The #FreeGajraj campaign was supported by numerous celebrities – including Jacqueline Fernandez, Athiya Shetty, Suniel Shetty, Sunny Leone, Sidharth Malhotra, and Sonakshi Sinha – who all shared information about his plight on social media.
Photos of Gajraj’s rescue are available upon request. For more information, please visit PETAIndia.com.