A 70-year-old former tourist elephant is finally free after spending his life in chains.
When Gajraj was first rescued back in 2017, he was an absolute mess. His job was to stand and walk around on hot, hard pavement with tourists on his back, and those unnatural conditions had really done a number to his feet.
A lifetime spent as a tourist attraction at a temple in Maharashtra had left him with feet riddled in sores and abscesses. At the time of his rescue, one of his toes was broken and a large open wound on one of his footpads required constant bandaging and cleaning to keep from getting infected.
But after 50 years, Gajraj is finally getting the rest and medical treatment he so richly deserves at Wildlife SOS’ recently opened elephant hospital.
A first of its kind for India, the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital comes with all the tools and technology that elephant doctors need to take care of their multi-ton charges. The facility is essentially a converted warehouse measuring 10,000 square feet. Inside are elephantine quantities of life-saving drugs and veterinary medicines and enormous versions of X-rays, ultrasound machines, and even a CAT scan.
To help with partially drugged patients, a crane is built-in to the hospital’s roof that can fit an elephant-sized patient. They even have an “elephant ambulance”, which is essentially a 16-wheel cargo truck converted to carry a single enormous patient.
Opened in November 2018, Gajraj has been receiving specialized foot care for his damaged feet at the Elephant Hospital, including the application of “sole-guard” a black, tar-like substance that keeps the sore on Gajraj’s foot from becoming infected.
Wildlife SOS operates 10 elephant sanctuaries in India with the goal of freeing and caring for each of India’s working elephants. So far, the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital has two regular patients, with Wildlife SOS rescuing 26 elephants from a torturous existence as tourism attractions.
With the opening of India’s first elephant hospital, Wildlife SOS hopes that these majestic creatures can be saved for future generations.