Victory: PETA India Campaign Frees Chained Elephant Gajraj After Over 50 Years of Neglect

Posted on by PETA

  • More than 200,000 supporters of PETA and its international affiliates joined us in demanding this traumatized elephant’s release.
  • The Maharashtra Forest Department has just unchained Gajraj and he’s being taken to the Wildlife SOS elephant-care center.

After more than 50 long years, Gajraj has finally been rescued from his chains. This old elephant, whose appalling treatment sparked a global #FreeGajraj campaign led by PETA India, is on his way now to the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre (ECCC) in Mathura – a collaborative project of PETA India, Wildlife SOS, and the Uttar Pradesh Forest and Wildlife Department – to receive vital veterinary treatment and begin his integration into the company of fellow elephants after all these years alone. He was rescued by the Maharashtra Forest Department today and is being accompanied to the ECCC by an expert veterinary team. PETA India arranged for the center to take him in, and has also paid for his new home and other costs.

The Maharashtra Forest Department’s much-commended decision to rescue ailing Gajraj comes after more than 200,000 supporters of PETA and our affiliates advocated for his release. But the rescue wasn’t easy: hundreds of misguided local villagers protested, and his mahout and some protesters even threatened mass suicide. In April, Maharashtra government–appointed veterinarians confirmed PETA India veterinarians’ earlier findings that Gajraj is suffering from weakness and untreated prolonged abscesses on his hindquarters and elbows as well as painful foot conditions and that his custodian and mahout have failed to maintain even basic health-care records, such as treatment, deworming, and vaccination registers, adding to suspicions that no such care has been given in years. Videos from a recent PETA India eyewitness investigation show Gajraj swaying back and forth and bobbing his head – behavior indicating severe stress.

Gajraj is thought to have been taken from the forest as a 12-year-old in 1965. He was then forced to make the 800-kilometre journey from Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, to Satara, Maharashtra, which reportedly took a month and a half. His transfer was illegal.

The #FreeGajraj campaign was also supported by numerous kind celebrities – including Jacqueline Fernandez, Athiya Shetty, Suniel Shetty, Sunny Leone, Sidharth Malhotra, and Sonakshi Sinha – who all shared information about his plight on social media.

Elephants in the wild live in matriarchal herds and are active for 18 hours a day, foraging for fresh vegetation, playing, bathing in rivers, and travelling as far as 50 kilometers. Elephants in captivity are denied the opportunity to roam vast distances and often suffer from foot problems and arthritis because of long periods spent standing on hard surfaces. They can develop neurotic and self-harming behavior, and many die prematurely.

Finally, at age 63, Gajraj will be able to live out his life in a natural setting, where he can just be an elephant.

But Mali, a female elephant at the Manila Zoo in the Philippines, still needs your help. She has spent 40 years pacing the same concrete area over and over again, and most of that time in solitary confinement. In the wild, elephants such as Mali would spend their days in the company of their herd—which they’d never leave—foraging, bathing and playing in rivers, and roaming vast territories. Placing these intelligent and complex individuals in conditions that are harmful to them, just so that humans can gawk at them, teaches visitors nothing.

Please help Mali get the life that she deserves. Urge the Philippine government to allow her to be transferred to a sanctuary where she can be free and live happily.