Celebs join movement to take elephant Gajraj to a shelter (India)


Vijay Singh|, Times of India

Date Published

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NAVI MUMBAI: There is a growing movement within the country and also abroad to free a 63-year-old ailing elephant, Gajraj, from Aundh in Satara district and shift him to a proper shelter, where he can comfortably spend the last few years of his life.

Close to 15,000 people in India have already responded to an online campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA India) to Take Action’ and write to the Maharashtra forest department and enable Gajraj to move to a sanctuary.

“We are pleasantly surprised to see that within a week of kick-starting our campaign on the internet to Free Gajraj, we have already got 15000 respondents from India alone and several more from international destinations. The elephant was barely 12 when it was taken from Madhya Pradesh to Aundh by the erstwhile royal family. It’s been there for the last 51 years, and his health is not good at present,” said the PETA India director of veterinary affairs, Dr Manilal Valliyate.

Since November last year, PETA activists have been writing letters to the elephant’s custodian, Gayatridevi Bhagwantrao Pantpratinidhi, of the erstwhile royal family of Aundh, to aid in shifting Gajraj to a shelter. However, since they did not receive any feedback, the NGO has now formally written to the forest department on this issue.

Besides international media coverage on the plight of Gajraj in popular dailies such as The Sun of United Kingdom recently, celebs such as Sunny Leone and Jacqueline Fernandes have also joined the PETA movement for the pachyderm.

When TOI contacted the deputy conservator of forests (DCF) at Satara, A M Anjankar, he said, “The medical examination of Gajraj was recently carried out by a designated team of veterinarians and elephant experts in Aundh. We are awaiting the full medical report and then take appropriate action.”

Valliyate added, “We are all awaiting the medical report of Gajraj. However, just a preliminary look at the elephant will easily show the various health issues he is facing. There are multiple abscesses (accumulation of pus) on his hip and shoulder areas. He also has injury marks on the feet, overgrown and broken toenails, and shows clear symptoms of psychological distress, such as head bobbing and swaying due to its isolation and unnatural settings.”

PETA India activists also noted that Gajraj’s tusks have been chopped over a period of time without taking any permission from the forest department under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. “Gajraj is kept close to Aundh’s popular tourist destinations that include the Yamai Devi temple and the Shree Bhavani Museum. Often, people offer sweets and other artificial snacks to the elephant to seek blessings. However, for Gajraj, it is no blessing but a curse, as such foods can cause intestinal complications as well,” said Valliyate.

Earlier in August 2012, the 13-year-old elephant, Sunder, was successfully freed from its captivity near a popular temple at Kolhapur after months of intensive campaigning by animal activists. The former Beatle singer, Paul McCartney, had also written to the Maharashtra forest minister then to free Sunder, which he is now and taken to an elephant sanctuary near Bengaluru.