Heartbreaking Redemption: Rescuers Discover Bull Elephant, Once Used for Begging on Streets with a Broken Spine, Now Finds Sanctuary and Healing in a New Home

Rescuers Find Bull Elephant Used for Begging on Streets With Broken Spine—Give Him New Home

Rama had been a begging elephant all of his life after being separated from his family at a tender age. The tuskless makhna elephant was also used as a prop for entertainment at weddings.

The young, strong bull, guessed to be 25 years old, was extremely emaciated with protruding bones and was injured in multiple places when staff at Wildlife SOS found him. Veterinarians were shocked by the extent of those injuries. They found his spine riddled with fractures, with broken bits of spinous process along his back. They believed this was likely caused by improper saddling and carrying heavy loads, such as groups of tourists.

 Rama the elephant enjoying a fruit feast after arriving at Elephant Hospital, in Uttar Pradesh, India. (Courtesy of Wildlife SOS)Rama the elephant enjoying a fruit feast after arriving at Elephant Hospital, in Uttar Pradesh, India. (Courtesy of Wildlife SOS)

Further injuries were found elsewhere on his body: Ear notches presented signs of bull hooks being used. Both his eyes exhibited corneal opacity. Multiple persistent and deep septic wounds covering his ankles were caused by spiked hobbles. These shackles were only freshly removed after the elephant was rescued this year—and removed with much care, for Rama remains fearful of humans.

Staff at Elephant Hospital are doing all they can to win Rama’s trust by feeding him the fresh fruit he loves and providing care. But they are also allowing him the space and the time he needs as he is agitated and still adjusting to his new surroundings. He’s beginning to realize he is in good, loving hands.

Thankfully, Rama is coming around. Staff look on with joy as he roams freely for the first time through the spacious hospital campus without a care in the world. Seemingly with bliss, he tosses dust up into the air with his trunk to coat his body; these dust baths are “extremely important for an elephant’s wellbeing,” Wildlife SOS stated in a caption on Instagram.

 An X-ray image shows multiple fractures and fragmentation on Rama's dorsal spine. (Courtesy of Wildlife SOS)An X-ray image shows multiple fractures and fragmentation on Rama’s dorsal spine. (Courtesy of Wildlife SOS)

 (Left) Rama is a 25-year-old tuskless male makhna elephant; (Right) The elephant's chains are being carefully removed to reduce pain just before his treatment. (Courtesy of Wildlife SOS)(Left) Rama is a 25-year-old tuskless male makhna elephant; (Right) The elephant’s chains are being carefully removed to reduce pain just before his treatment. (Courtesy of Wildlife SOS)

 A veterinarian carrying out an X-ray of Rama's spine. (Courtesy of Wildlife SOS)A veterinarian carrying out an X-ray of Rama’s spine. (Courtesy of Wildlife SOS)

They write: “The entire Wildlife SOS team is brimming with happiness as we witness him engage in simple acts.” The young bull is active and full of energy and with each passing day is placing more trust in his carers—who’ve found that the way to his heart is through his stomach.

Treatment for Rama also consists of oral medication to alleviate what was surely once constant pain and discomfort. They provided him with water and salt for hydration. “The sight of this elephant’s suffering is profound, revealing the immense physical and emotional duress he must have endured,” co-founder of the non-profit Geeta Seshamani said in a press statement.

 Elephant Rama prior to his arrival at Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital for treatment. (Courtesy of Wildlife SOS)Elephant Rama prior to his arrival at Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital for treatment. (Courtesy of Wildlife SOS)

The group is calling on tourists to “refuse to ride” elephants in a campaign to combat animal cruelty. According to the CEO of Wildlife SOS, Kartick Satyanarayan, Rama’s case underscores the need for mandatory inspections and certification for keeping elephants in captivity. When understood in context, the impacts of this animal cruelty hit home.

“The only way to enable tourists to ride is by keeping the elephant in constant pain and fear,” the director of Wildlife SOS USA, Nikki Sharp, said. “They undergo horrific training methods to be tamed.” They’re sharing Rama’s case to help spread awareness.

For now, caregivers will continue providing Rama with nutritious meals, treatment for his physical and emotional injuries, and a free environment in which to roam.

Sia

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