Amongst all the horrific news about our ever-depleting wildlife, it is always heartwarming to hear about a positive story with a very happy ending.
Couple that with the power of social media and an array of people with incredibly good souls and you will find a story that will restore a little bit of faith in humanity, and how technology and the media can be used in the most positive and helpful way.
One year ago, just before Christmas in 2015, a story was written by the Daily Mail about an Asian elephant named Suraj.
The 45-year-old elephant had spent more than two decades in a 12-foot square dark room attached to a heavy chain hindering his movements.
Suraj, which translates as ‘Sunny’, was used as a tourist attraction in a temple in Maharashtra in central India, where he would be forced to endure endless selfies with tourists and locals, despite having a torn-off ear and broken tail.
The lonely elephant would only be allowed to leave his room once a year when he was forced to take part in a religious procession.
This mundane and torturing life soon drove him crazy, and he caused a stampede in which one person sadly died. Due to this, he was to remain chained up for the rest of his life, until he eventually died from starvation, dehydration and depression.
After recognising the urgent need for a rescue, Wildlife SOS India stepped in to save Suraj, and with the help of thousands of donations from the Mail on Sunday readers, a 2am coup was staged on the 21st December 2015.
A rescue force of 90 people fought through the 200 local people who wanted their trophy animal to stay, and got Suraj safely onto a waiting vehicle before commencing on the road to freedom.
Suraj is now in the safety of the Wildlife SOS’s Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura, New Delhi, where he is being well looked after.
Unfortunately, elephants who have lived such a long life in terrible conditions suffer devastating damage, and Suraj is no exception. He has a poor digestive system following years of malnutrition, and his feet consist of swollen footpads, deep cracks across his toenails and a twisted right forelimb which has caused an abscess between his nails.
Together with the physical wounds is the psychological trauma that he suffers with, which includes waking up in a panic and being too weak to stand by himself, whilst also being on an intravenous drip of over 20 litres of fluid a day.
However, staff are working hard to give Suraj a much better life, building support structures for him to lie against when he sleeps, providing him with a heavily nutritional diet of the best fruit and vegetables, and treats of peanuts, which are his favourite.
He also has access to a pool of water which he revels in, as well as enjoying his long walks where he can wander through luscious vegetation, foraging and exploring, free of any chains holding him back.
This heartwarming story has demonstrated how powerful the media can be in spreading awareness of helpless animals in terrible conditions, and how everyone can help. Demonstrating that by uniting together, we can give our wildlife the life that they deserve.
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