Gajraj, a 70-year-old elephant, faithfully served as a temple elephant for the Royal family of Aundh in Maharashtra’s Satara district for over half a century.
He was revered by the local community and seen as an iconic symbol in their religious ceremonies and temple processions.
However, a turning point in Gajraj’s life occurred recently. After over five decades of service, he was retired and entrusted to the care of Wildlife SOS, a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation NGO.
Gajraj’s retirement was prompted by concerns about his health, which were brought to light by a PETA campaign.
People worldwide, deeply moved by his condition, rallied for Wildlife SOS to intervene and provide him with the care he desperately needed.
Medical examinations revealed that Gajraj suffered from toenail abscesses that could spread to his bones, hip abscesses, and severe degeneration of his foot pads.
These health issues made him a prime candidate for geriatric, lifelong care at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation & Care Center in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh.
As Gajraj bid farewell to the Royal family of Aundh, emotions ran high among the residents.
A large crowd gathered, and tensions escalated. To ensure the safety of the Wildlife SOS rescue team, a substantial police force was deployed.
Finally, Gajraj was carefully loaded into India’s only specially designed elephant ambulance. Accompanied by expert veterinarians, paramedics, elephant caretakers, and the rescue team, he embarked on a 1500-kilometer journey to his new home.
Upon arrival at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Center, Gajraj cautiously tested the ground with his trunk.
Then, for the first time in over five decades, he stepped out of the vehicle without chains, accompanied by caring elephant keepers and veterinarians. This marked the beginning of a life free from labor at a temple or in ceremonies.
Today, Gajraj spends his days leisurely feasting on fresh fruits and green fodder, splashing in his pool, and indulging in dust baths.
The dedicated veterinary team administers daily medicated foot soaks, treats his abscesses, and provides him with a special diet and supplements to help him regain his strength.
Gajraj’s remarkable journey from a lifetime in chains to a peaceful and dignified retirement is a heartwarming example of how compassion and concerted efforts can transform the lives of animals in need.
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