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Mathura hospital to give elephants a real healing touch

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The ‘Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital’, the first-of-its-kind facility, is expected to help in the treatment of elephants, many rescued from circuses.    

Mathura: For elephants such as Nagraj, Lakshmi, Coco and Peanut, being rehabilitated at the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre (ECCC) in Mathura, accessing medical help just got easier.

Last week, Wildlife SOS, an animal rescue NGO that runs the care centre, inaugurated the ‘Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital’, the first-of-its-kind facility to meet the medical demands of the rescued domesticated elephants.

Situated in Farah block’s Churmura village, Mathura, the hospital is equipped to treat two to three elephants at a time. Spread across 12,000 sq ft area on the banks of the Yamuna, this facility has three enclosed areas to house recuperating elephants.

A digital weighing scale in the hospital | Facebook
A digital weighing scale in the hospital | Facebook

Equipment for facilities such as wireless digital x-ray, laser therapy, thermal imaging, tranquilisation devices and ultra-sonography are already set up while the pathology lab is under construction. The facility is expected to be fully operational in a few months. It also has an ambulance big enough to transport an elephant and two caretakers.

“We have 20 elephants in our rescue centre and every time we ran pathological tests before vaccination, we had to send samples to Agra. We were losing precious time,” said Shivam Rai, the facility’s education conservation officer. “With the setting up of the hospital within 4 km of the shelter, the process will be faster.”

Dr Yaduraj, the onsite vet, told ThePrint that the medical hoist was an important facility that the hospital required as most of the circus elephants come with severe damage in their nails and foot pads.

“Some of our rescued elephants have had nails embedded in their foot pads or have severely damaged pads due to walking on tar roads,” Yaduraj said.  “Attending to their front and hind legs is very important as it can lead to further bodily damage in these gentle creatures.”

He added that all the elephants have abscesses on their body as during captivity, they are allegedly poked with sharp objects, which lead to tears in their skins and a lack of hygiene leads to infection and pus in these areas.

The hospital also has an indoor elephant restraining device which is usually used during the time of vaccination or while giving baths. “When new elephants are brought into the facility they are scared and refuse to stay still, they are restrained here and inspected for injuries and given a bath,” Rai said.

Also read: Avni row still on, Maneka Gandhi now urges CM Naveen Patnaik to save Odisha’s elephants

Elephant conservation and care centre

The hospital is spread across 12,000 square feet area on the banks of the river Yamuna | Facebook
The hospital is spread across 12,000 square feet area on the banks of the river Yamuna | Facebook

The rehabilitation centre in Mathura houses 12 female and 8 male elephants kept in enclosed areas. Every elephant has its own caretaker who feeds and bathes them every day.  All the elephants at the rescue centre have names and are unrestrained.

Rai told ThePrint that all elephants are taken out for a walk in the grounds nearby.

The centre permits visitors at thrice a day at 10 am, 12 noon and 3 pm. In peak months, it has up to 300-450 visitors a month.

One of the problems that the centre faces, however, is its location, in that it is situated geographically far away from the more elephant populated areas, reaching them in time might be a problem for the authorities.

According to Rai, the hospital was set up in Mathura keeping in mind the facilities the NGO was provided with. They had land and equipment here, with the rehabilitation centre so close by these elephants will also be cared for.

He also added that they cannot dare to venture away from this region, as in states such as Kerala they are looked at with suspicion. Villagers often clash with them when they try to rescue injured temple elephants, Rai said.

Also read: Electrocution, rail accidents, encroachment: Why elephants keep dying in India

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