Near the popular Indian tourist spots Shri Bhavani Museum and Yamai Devi temple in Aundh, Maharashtra, 63-year-old Gajraj—an elephant who's been held captive for 51 years—is slowly succumbing to his injuries and illnesses after decades of abuse, exploitation, and neglect. His custodian, Ms. Gayatridevi Bhagwantrao Pantpratinidhi, and mahouts (handlers) left him to die alone because he's too sick and old to beg for money. It's extremely cruel to let him suffer in agony and perish in chains.
In 1965, Gajraj was taken from his home in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, when he was 12 years old. He was forced to make the 500-mile journey to Maharashtra, which took a month and a half. He's been living under the punishing tutelage of Ms. Gayatridevi ever since.
Gajraj's suffering is appalling: The stench of his feces and urine assaults visitors before they even reach the little patch of concrete where he's kept constantly chained, which has caused painful abscesses on his hindquarters and elbows. He also suffers from broken and overgrown toe nails on all four feet.
He is understandably at his breaking point. He tries to escape the chains that rub his ankles raw and exhibits the classic signs of severe psychological anguish—including bobbing his head and swaying, which healthy elephants in nature don't do. Someone has even hacked off his tusks without the state forest department's permission.
The Maharashtra Forest Department must immediately free Gajraj from this grotesquely inhumane situation and secure his retirement to a reputable elephant-care center, where he can get veterinary treatment and live out the rest of his life free from chains.
Please Free Gajraj Immediately
Dear [Decision maker],
I am troubled to learn that a 63-year-old captive temple elephant named Gajraj is being exploited as a tourist attraction by his custodian, Ms. Gayatridevi Bhagwantrao Pantpratinidh, in Aundh, Maharashtra, while he slowly dies from illness, psychological torment, and injuries .
Gajraj's life has been an ongoing nightmare since the 1960s. After being taken from his home in Madhya Pradesh when he was 12 years old, he was sent 800 kilometers away to beg for money in Aundh village and at the Yamai Devi temple. Being shackled, made to stand on hard concrete, neglected, abused, malnourished, and forced to live with painful chronic abscesses with oozing pus took a heavy toll on him, and Ms. Gayatridevi dumped him at her house compound, where he lives today, just short walk from the Shri Bhavani Museum .
It's impossible to ignore Gajraj's overt suffering: Someone chopped off his tusks, all of his feet are cracked, he has overgrown toenails, and his body has multiple painful abscesses. The shackles that bind him wound his ankles as he tries to free himself from the constant torment of being isolated, chained, and denied the medical attention that he needs.
He sways back and forth and bobs his head, which are clear signs of severe mental anguish from spending so much time in intense confinement and isolation. After Duncan McNair, CEO of Save the Asian Elephants, saw video footage of Gajraj he said, "To be tethered like this is an hourly torture for [elephants]. ... I can categorically confirm this elephant is in extreme psychological distress ."
Keeping Gajraj in these conditions violates India's Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 --and is ethically indefensible . He needs to be granted his freedom and moved to a reputable elephant- care center so that he can be unchained, receive much-needed veterinary care, and live out the rest of his days in peace.
I urge you to use your authority to save this tormented elephant from dying alone in chains.
[Your comments here]