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Fundraising appeal for 'elephant field of dreams'

by Ivey Underwood (2020-03-21)


Despite being blind and physically spent, Priyanka is forced to endure the pain of hauling heavy bricks for her keepers day after day. If she slows, they poke her with a spear.

Her torturous existence is an all too familiar sight in India, where captive Asian elephants are beaten into submission as calves and used for begging, haulage, tourist attractions, performances and chained to temples.

It's heartbreaking stories like this that charity Wildlife SOS is hoping to rewrite with the purchase of a lush swathe of land dubbed the 'Elephant Field of Dreams' to extend its existing sanctuary, which is now at full capacity.






Two of the elephants rescued by Wildlife SOS scope out the land that the charity hopes to buy to save more 'gentle giants'







How elephants SHOULD roll: Sunbathing in soft sand at the land next to the charity's sanctuary in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh







Rescue elephants Maya and Phoolkali took a walk to explore the Field of Dreams, which has a wide river flowing through it


The charity has rescued and rehabilitated 24 elephants since 1995 at its conservation and care centre in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, but it has another 50 - including poor Priyanka - that it urgently wants to save from a life of abuse and misery, before it's too late.

Charity co-founder Kartick Satyanarayan said: 'We currently have a list of more than 50 names of elephants in critical need of rescue. 

'Some are performing painful tricks in circuses, others are confined to tiny spaces in temples, still others are used for begging on the street.

'Our dream for every last one of them is a life of freedom and good health. These elephants should be able walk freely, to roll in mud if they want, and spend hours playing in water.' 






Lush and green: Three rescue elephants explore the vast land that could form part of the expansion of their sanctuary







The charity is just Rs 5,922,300 shy of its initial target; but it eventually needs Rs 11,33,98,415 for the full cost of expansion


The animals' futures now hinge on the charity being able to raise the funds for the new land - and it is now in touching distance of securing the first parcel of land it needs, thanks to support flooding in from elephant lovers across the world.

It is just Rs 5,922,300 ($87,000) shy of its initial target; but it eventually needs Rs 11,33,98,415 for the full cost of expansion work.





'After our most recent rescue of Mohan elephant we are close to our capacity, and in order to expand our elephant project it is essential for us to acquire an additional 125 acres of land,' said Kartick.

'To enable us to rescue more elephants in need, and give them the freedom to roam that has changed the lives of our elephants so dramatically, without the problem of overcrowding and compromising on the space given to each elephant, we have located and scouted an ideal piece of land to expand the facility. 

'Just a short distance from the existing centre, it [the land] has a stunning natural river flowing through it, surrounded by thickets and trees.






Elephant Priyanka is just one of the 50 elephants in urgent need of rescuing from a lifetime of misery















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Wildlife SOS said she is forced to haul bricks every day despite being blind and exhausted from years of work


'It's beautiful, and perfect for our elephants - more space for the ones already in our care and a new, safe home for the abused elephants out there that still need our help.'

One of the charity's highest profile rescues in recent years was that of Suraj, a tormented 45-year-old elephant who had spent almost half his life in a 12ft-square dark room at a temple in Maharashtra.

He only left that room once a year for a religious procession - until he was driven mad by crowds and caused a stampede in which a person died. So, he was condemned to a life in shackles, never seeing the light of day.






Recently rescued elephant Mohan (left) with a friend munching on some fodder as he enjoys his long-awaited freedom







The 125 acre piece of land that Wildlife SOS want to buy will allow more elephants to enjoy the freedom they deserve


But Wildlife SOS, which also rescues and rehabilitates sloth bears alongside projects to help leopards, black bears and other animals, stepped in.

Despite the psychological scars, which will never heal, and the injuries from which he'll never fully recover, he now roams free around the charity's sanctuary.






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Having been named one of Time magazine's Most Influential Animals of 2016, he rivals the refuge's most famous resident, Raju, the elephant filmed best play school in mathura tears when unshackled from chains after more than 50 years. 

But Geeta Seshamani, the other co-founder of Wildlife SOS, warned: 'We are coming to a standstill soon with our elephant rescue program because we are at capacity at our elephant care and conservation centre. 






Suraj - which means Sunny - was chained up at a temple in central India before being rescued by Wildlife SOS







Suraj now, as he explores the sanctuary. His health has been improving steadily and his wounds have gradually begun to heal


'Priyanka is just one of the many tragic stories we want to rewrite. Although blind and physically spent, Priyanka is still being worked all day hauling heavy bricks. 

'Imagine her without shackles, untethered from heavy loads of rock - roaming the landscape freely and without pain. She could be the first of 50 elephants to enjoy this new land!

'This is a critical social investment for our country as the world becomes more aware about the plight of elephants in captivity; rescue centres like these become essential to give these gentle giants a life of freedom that they deserve.' 

To donate, go to Wildlife SOS's fundraising page. 














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Make a donation to Wildlife SOS

wildlifesos.org/