India’s first elephant hospital opens for business
Approaching an elephant, Suzi, carefully, a vet and his assistant draw some blood for routine tests at India’s first hospital for the long-trunked mammals, which opened its doors in Uttar Pradesh on Friday. Suzi, 67, has been abused and lost all her molars as well as much of her hearing. Another elephant, Asha, 49, has chronic leg issues, as she was abused in a circus and suffers from foot abscess. Elephants in India, numbering about 25,000 in the wild, are an endangered species. While revered as a cultural and religious icon, they are also hounded when they wander into human settlements, damaging crops and homes, and trampling people. Hundreds of elephants across India are held in captivity to perform touristic as well as religious rituals at forts, palaces and large temples. They are often ill-treated by their mahouts and owners who use sharp metal hooks to make them obey instructions. Medical staff at the hospital receive elephants who have been released from captivity where they suffered years of abuse and brutality and are afflicted with lameness, blindness, abscess, and arthritis. The place is equipped with hi-tech equipment such as digital X-Rays and advanced tranquillization equipment. Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, said the hospital would not only treat the pachyderms that have been abused during the course of their lives but also become a centre for learning for students interested in wildlife conservation. The hospital, on the banks of river Yamuna, is close to an elephant conservation and care centre run by Wildlife SOS that is home to 22 elephants and would eventually be expanded to take care of nearly 50 pachyderms. After they recover from long term medical procedures and critical care, the elephants will be transferred to the conservation and care centre.