At Arignar Anna Zoo in Chennai, southern India, an extraordinary bond has blossomed between young children and orphaned elephant calves, transcending the natural boundaries.
Rescued from the forest, one-year-old elephants receive dedicated care from a team of mahouts, whose children uniquely nurture these orphaned creatures.
Nandini, eight, and Lavindya, six, the children of mahouts, confidently ride home on the back of Sharon, a 14-month-old orphaned calf saved from the Sathyamangalam Forests in southern India.
This unique relationship goes beyond primary care, involving a shared daily routine of attending school, playing football, and sleeping together.
Zoo staff firmly believe that this extraordinary bond significantly contributes to the well-being of the orphaned elephants post-rescue.
Nandgopal, eight, and Lavindya, four, peacefully slumber beside Giri, an orphaned elephant calf rescued from the Hosur Forest in southern India.
Mahout Rajan, 25, shares the extraordinary connection his daughter Lavindya has formed with the elephants, where she commands the young calves, who respond by wrapping their trunks around her, seeking affection.
This deep emotional bond has evolved over the past year since the arrival of Sharon, the zoo’s first orphaned elephant.
Bath time unfolds with Nandini and Nandgopal giving Sharon a soothing scrub after a long day.
Post-bath, the elephants are nourished with milk, coconut water, and glucose to ensure their strength and overall well-being.
When it’s time for school, the children embark on a distinctive journey riding on the backs of these gentle giants, with their school bags thoughtfully carried in the elephants’ trunks.
Upon returning from school, the village transforms into a lively playground where children and elephants partake in spirited football matches and joyous chases.
Six-year-old Anu showcases impressive mastery by taking command of an adult orphaned elephant. Amidst these heartwarming scenes, the challenges faced by the zoo come to the forefront.
Despite government funding, additional resources are needed to enhance the care provided to these calves. P.L. Ananthasamy, the zoo’s director, emphasizes the need for increased funds to establish a dedicated rehabilitation center for orphaned calves.
The bonds of friendship and caregiving between the children and orphaned elephants underscore their indispensable role in each other’s lives, exemplifying the power of compassion and the unique connections that can flourish across species.
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