Agra, May 13 (IANS) Elephant ‘Phoolkali’ celebrated a decade of freedom on Friday after spending nearly 50 years as a begging elephant in Uttar Pradesh. Years of mistreatment, abuse and inadequate care had left her with several medical issues like abscesses, infected wounds and worn-out footpads.
Ten years ago, wildlife conservation NGO Wildlife SOS and the UP Forest Department rescued Phoolkali, giving her the chance to live a safer life at the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura.
Prior to her rescue in 2012, Phoolkali would spend her days walking along the chaotic streets of Agra, begging for alms. Years of overwork, abuse and neglect had not only left her with ailments such as cracked toenails and painfully damaged footpads and cuticles with severe toenail abscesses, but she also suffered from psychological trauma.
Much like humans, elephants are social animals and separation from their herd tends to have a grave impact on their psychological well-being. For decades, Phoolkali had been deprived of the chance to interact with other elephants, forcing her to endure a lonely and cruel life.
At the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura, Phoolkali was introduced to an elephant named Maya, who was rescued from a circus in 2010. The two elephants have grown inseparable over time and Maya’s companionship has played a significant role in Phoolkali’s decade-long recovery journey.
Today, 65-year-old Phoolkali is a completely different animal, who has restored not only her strength, but also regained her confidence. Phoolkali enjoys taking long walks to the Yamuna riverside, which is located close to the rescue centre, and spends hours playing in the water. In all her years in captivity, Phoolkali had never been in the water but shortly after her arrival at the Wildlife SOS centre, she discovered the joys of soaking in the refreshing jumbo pool in her enclosure.
To celebrate her 10th rescue anniversary, the Wildlife SOS team decided to do something special for Phoolkali. The team spent its day fixing a treat in the shape of the number ’10’ using bamboo and green fodder and organised a spread of bananas, watermelon, papayas and pumpkins by the riverside.
Phoolkali was delighted to see the feast waiting for her when she returned from a dip in the river with her companions Maya and Emma.
Baiju Raj M.V., Director, Conservation Projects, Wildlife SOS, said, “Years of neglect and abuse had a detrimental effect on Phoolkali’s health and it has taken a long time for her to recover. As part of her ongoing treatment, Phoolkali gets relaxing medicated footbaths, her overgrown footpads are trimmed regularly, and she is on a nutritious, healthy diet.”
Geeta Seshamani, Co-founder and Secretary, Wildlife SOS, said, “Elephants are highly intelligent and social beings and form extremely strong familial bonds with one another, both in the wild and in captivity. Being separated from the herd can be immensely stressful and traumatic for an elephant. Today, we are happy to see the bond of trust and friendship between Phoolkali, Maya and Emma.”