Victory: Gajraj the Elephant Rescued After 50 Years of Chains and Neglect

Officials Move Traumatized Animal to a Care Center After 200,000 PETA India and Affiliate Supporters Demand His Release

For Immediate Release:
June 15, 2017

Contact:
Megan Wiltsie 202-483-7382

Pune, Maharashtra, India – After more than 50 years chained near the popular tourist spots Shri Bhavani Museum and Yamai Devi temple in Aundh, Satara, 63-year-old Gajraj the elephant was transported to the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre—a collaborative project of Wildlife SOS and the Uttar Pradesh Forest and Wildlife Department—on Wednesday in front of a cheering crowd. His appalling treatment in captivity and deteriorating condition sparked PETA India’s global #FreeGajraj campaign, which inspired more than 200,000 people to call for his release. PETA arranged for Wildlife SOS to take in Gajraj and has paid to build his new home and for other costs related to his care.

In April, government-appointed veterinarians confirmed PETA India veterinarians’ earlier findings that Gajraj—who is thought to have been taken from the wild as a 12-year-old—suffered from weakness and untreated prolonged abscesses on his hindquarters and elbows as well as painful foot conditions. They also found that his custodian had failed to keep even basic health-care records for him, such as treatment, deworming, and vaccination registers. Footage from a recent PETA India eyewitness investigation showed him swaying and bobbing his head—signs of severe stress-induced behavior.

“After Gajraj endured half a century of suffering, we can celebrate now that he’s on his way to safety,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “He has known only misery and neglect for decades. But now, because of the actions of PETA India and so many compassionate supporters around the world, he’ll be able to roam, bathe in ponds, and be in the company of other elephants.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—notes that 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 traveling vast distances. Elephants in captivity are unable to roam and often suffer from foot problems and arthritis from standing on hard surfaces. They can develop neurotic and self-harming behavior, and many die prematurely.

Additional photos of Gajraj’s rescue are available upon request. For more information, please visit PETA.org.

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“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind