This 70-year Old Elephant Spent 50 Years in Bondage. Then Something Unexpected Happened

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Elephants have always been a popular form of amusement in India, both for locals and tourists. As a result, many elephants are subjected to daily amusement work from a young age, regardless of their health and natural desires. Gajraj was one of the few that got away.

For Mile-High Pleasure And Pain

Gajraj is a 70-year old Indian elephant. When he was about 20 years old, he was separated from the rest of his kin and taken into service as an amusement elephant. His work increased as his popularity soared, and this continued as he grew older, despite his failing health.

His owners commonly used him as a tourist attraction around the Yamai Devi temple and the Shri Bhavani Museum in the Aundh area of Satara in India. Part of his act was to carry tourists around on his back and pose for photographs with them all day along. Naturally, this proved to be detrimental in more ways than one.

Abscesses and Other Health Issues

Before long, Gajraj was feeling the effects of overworking his body. He had been in the business for decades, but his owners weren’t about to let him free. Because his daily act involved him walking around on hot pavements, Gajaraj suffered immense damage on his feet.

One of his toes broke while his feet developed abscesses and wounds. Without much medical attention, one of his foot pads later developed a major sore too. Still, his owners worked him every day without mercy. Sadly again, no one seemed to care enough to help. Until one hashtag started a storm.

A Hash Tag Saviour

Unknown to Gajraj’s handlers, someone had noticed their cruelty and made it public on social media. PETA India (the association that strives to restore and maintain the ethical treatment of animals) got wind of this mistreatment and set out to rescue Gajraj immediately.

One of its earliest tactics was using the hashtag #FreeGajraj on Twitter. Within days, #FreeGajraj was trending all over the internet, backed by millions of users and hundreds of global celebrities.

The hashtag was so popular that it prompted an online petition on the same topic, which drew over 200,000 signatures demanding for Gajraj’s release. Did the pressure work?

A Stately Approach

Aundh, the region where Gajraj was being worked as a tourist attraction, is found in the Maharashtra state of India. The state officials started to feel the pressure from online activists and decided to examine the situation.

State veterinarians were asked to examine Gajraj’s health, and they discovered that he was seriously injured and needed immediate attention. Immediately, the state’s Forestry Department ordered that Gajraj is released formally and sent for medical treatment. By then, he had spent 50 years in bondage.

A New Life

The release spread like wildfire across the internet, with live streams of his evacuation being aired on platforms like YouTube. Gajraj was accorded the best treatment possible at the nearby Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre for a while until he started getting better.

Now that he is older, he has been left to roam alone freely. And even though much of his life has passed him in captivity, he is determined to start again.