Thanks to NGO Wildlife SOS, sick and injured elephants have their own hospital where they can be healed and taken care of. The 12,000-square feet facility is located in the holy town of Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, and is the first such hospital for elephants in India.
India is home for many Asian wild elephants : Between 50 and 60 percent of Asian elephants reside in India. However, the number of this endangered species has been on a decline. In 2010, India’s Environment Ministry declared the elephant to be a National Heritage Animal in order to increase protective measures. In 2012, India’s elephant population was estimated at about 30,000. By 2017, it was estimated at about 27,670. On an average, 80 elephants are killed every year due to human-wildlife conflict alone.
Elephants held in captivity: Elephants are an important part of India’s culture. One of the most popular Gods in Hindu mythology, Ganesha, has the head of an elephant. Elephants can be spotted at many temples in Southern India where they are worshipped and used in religious ceremonies. They also represent Indian royalty and are seen at many forts and palaces in the country to attract tourists. However, the condition of these elephants held in captivity is often miserable as they are poked with sharp objects which leads to tears in their skin and causes infection. Many circus elephants are poorly treated and have nails embedded in their foot pads.
The elephant hospital is a place of healing for the elephants
This specialised hospital in Mathura houses x-ray, thermal imaging, ultrasound machines, tranquilization devices, a hydrotherapy pool, an in-house pathology lab, and quarantine facilities. Located close to the elephant conservation and care centre set up by the same NGO, the hospital is equipped with a medical hoist for lifting elephants, and an elephant restraining device which is usually used during the time of vaccination or while giving baths. The facility has three enclosed areas to house recuperating elephants. It also has an ambulance big enough to transport an elephant and two caretakers. An observation deck will allow veterinary students and interns to observe and learn about an elephant’s behaviour and treatment from a safe distance. The hospital will also reach out to elephants in remote areas in North India by using portable machinery to treat an injured elephant on-site.
Conservation of this endangered species is the need of the hour. We hope that many such hospitals can be set up throughout the country to protect the elephants and other endangered animal species.
Written by: Chandni Shah. Chandni is a picture book collector, an educator and founder of Simplifly, a learning venture for children.