A 70-year-old elephant who was freed after half a century of enslavement, recently celebrated his one year of retirement - and now he's enjoying another milestone as the first patient at India's first ever elephant hospital.
Opened in November in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh by non-profit Wildlife SOS, the 12,000 square feet facility is designed to treat injured and sick elephants, and boasts technology such as wireless digital X-Ray, thermal imaging, ultrasonography, and an actual elephant ambulance.
So who better to enjoy first dibs than the old boy Gajraj, who found himself at the centre of the wildly successful #FreeGajraj campaign funded by PETA India and its international affiliates a couple of years back.
After all, poor Gajraj was illegally plucked from his home back in 1965 and spent 50 long years chained to tourists spots, Shri Bhavani Museum and Yamai Devi temple in Aundh, Satara, where visitors would ride on his back.
Having to endure these conditions meant that he developed wounds and abscesses on his feet. As shown by investigations carried out as part of the campaign, Gajraj's tusks were hacked off, he was frail from poor diet and dehydration, and he was never seen to by a vet - all the while being chained by each leg and made to work for all of those years.
Gajraj recently celebrated a year of freedom. Credit: Wildlife SOS
"Gajraj's time in captivity left him with multiple health issues including a large painful abscess on his right hip and thin, worn out footpads that were so thin in some places that they had turned pink," said Yaduraj Khadpekar, senior wildlife veterinary officer.
It was a story that touched the hearts of thousands of people the world over. After hundreds of letters, calls, emails, signatures, and protests later, Gajraj was eventually rescued and sent to one of Wildlife SOS' care centres, where experts have continued to provide top-of-the-line care at the well-equipped facility.
"We are currently providing him with routine foot care treatments and have introduced prescribed supplements to his nutritious diet," Khadpekar added.
He is the first elephant to be treated at India's very first elephant hospital. Credit: Wildlife SOS
According to People, now that Gajraj has a home at the recently-opened hospital, the staff are dedicated to helping erase the trauma he suffered during those 50 long years as a tourist attraction. And it looks like he's taken well to his new life as a free being.
Speaking about his one year anniversary back in June, Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder and CEO of Wildlife SOS, said: "A year has gone by since his rescue and he has grown much stronger with the constant care of his keeper and veterinarians."
Featured Image Credit: Wildlife SOS