Diti Bajpai & Suyash Shadiza
Phulmati is a content elephant. She gets to spend quality time with her 20 other elephant friends, is looked after, well fed and receives a lot of attention and adulation.
This, however, is Phulmati 2.0.
Nearly six years back, she was a slave. Her mahout–caretaker – was unkind to her. In order to run his family, he would make her walk on the streets of Ferozpur, perform and entertain people.Gradually, she started limping, but her master never bothered to find out the reason.
A kind-hearted bystander rescued Phulmati and she was brought to Wildlife SOS, an elephant protection centre, situated at Mathura. When Phulmati was examined by experts, they were aghast to find 250 grams of broken glass pieces and nails pierced in one of her paws.
Phulmati lives here with 20 other elephants who were rescued from different places and are recuperating. "We rescued Phulmati after a person called us and informed about her plight. She was badly injured and took a long time to recover. Her eye sight is still weak though. These elephants are all friends and we have named them all," informed Dr Baiju Raj, Project Director, Wildlife SOS, while feeding Phulmati.
Wildlife SOS is a conservation non-profit in India, established in 1995 with the primary objective of rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife in distress in the country, and preserving India's natural heritage.Under its aegis, four black bear, one Himalayan bear, one leopard and two elephant centres are running across India. It was a small institute when it started functioning, but now it's working on a large scale.
This particular centre is spread across 50 acres. At present, 20 elephants are residing here – 8 males and 12 females. They all are injured or unwell, hence a staff of 50 has been hired.
"To make money, mahouts capture calves from forests. They starve them and once they are too weak, these animals don't have any option but to dance to the tunes of their masters. Elephants are world's biggest mammals and yet humans manage to reduce them to mere puppets. Not just elephants, all animals living in jungles are becoming extinct," said Baiju.
He added: "Apart from looking after these elephants, we also educate mahuts and urge them not to ill-treat these mammals. These elephants living here look content as they are treated well. We have 11 centres across India, where we try to give a new lease of life to old and unwell wild animals. We don't get any kind of help from the government, but the state forest departments help us by giving us space. Since there is severe fund-crunch, we are not able to rescue all the needy elephants. We have requested the government to offer us a helping hand."
While feeding Chanchal,a male elephant, Shivam Rai, who works as an Education Officer at the organisation, narrates the mammals' story: "The truck he was in while he was being transported from Uttar Pradesh to Delhi met with an accident. There was one more elephant in the truck who died on the spot. Chanchal fractured his leg and suffered ear injuries. He was lying on the road for hours. Then we swung into action and rescued him. We spent five hours in loading him onto a truck."
Talking about their routine, he elaborated: "Their day begins at 5 am with breakfast. They are taken for a stroll at 7 and by 11 we give them bath. At 3, they are again taken for a walk. After giving them food at 6, they retire for the day. Each elephant gets private space. We end up spending Rs 3,000 per elephant on a daily basis."
Talking about their health, Dr Kamalnathan, who works at the institute, informs: Those elephants that are rescued from circus, there nails are in bad shape. We pamper them and they really like it. They let us treat their nails while a mahaut feeds them. Elephants are friendly animals. They like to live in groups. Here, we let them be and you can see how happy they are."