(New Delhi, Chennai, Mathura, India – 22nd April 2016). After performing side-by-side in the circus for more than five decades, circus elephant Rhea is reunited with her companions Mia and Sita, following her rescue by UK based charity Wildlife SOS. For more than five decades, elephants Mia, Sita and Rhea performed tricks together in a circus, and subjected to training and the usual brutal treatment that captive performing elephants are subjected to as part of their indoctrination and obedience training. In November 2015, British charity Wildlife SOS rescued Mia and Sita from their painful lives, but some paperwork required to rescue Rhea was yet to be obtained from the authorities which meant she had to be left behind and could not be rescued along with Sita and Mia.
Geeta Seshamani, Co-founder of Wildlife SOS said, “Elephants are highly intelligent, sentient beings, and form extremely strong bonds with others of their kind. Although Mia, Sita and Rhea were not related by blood, in every other way, they were each other’s family, so it was heart wrenching to have to leave one of these three girls behind, and we had to ensure we returned for her as soon as possible”.
Following months of tireless effort, follow up on paper work, and a five day long commute from Tamil Nadu to Mathura across nearly 2800 km, Rhea elephant has finally been reunited with her sisters Sita and Mia at the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre, run by Wildlife SOS in Mathura, making her the eleventh circus elephant to be rescued by the organization. The excited anticipation was evident amongst the Wildlife SOS staff and rescue team as the Elephant Ambulance convoy transporting Rhea drove into the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre, and everyone watched the reunion of the three elephants with bated breath.
The female elephants, aged between 45 and 53 years, had obviously missed each other terribly, and began greeting each other with gentle squeaking and rumbling sounds even before they were within each other’s reach, after which they entwined their trunks and patted each other comfortingly, as if reassuring themselves that they were finally together again, and this time in a pain-free, safe place!
The rescue facility, run by Wildlife SOS a registered charity in UK with operations in India is currently home to 19 elephants, all of which have been rescued from situations of abuse as working and performing elephants.
Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-founder of Wildlife SOS, said, “It was fantastic to witness natural elephant behavior and hear the vocalizations of the elephants as they greeted each other. Amidst the squeals of excitement and trunk holding that ensued, we could not help but feel honored to have been part of this reunion. It was overwhelming that we had brought these gentle giants back together as a family”.
Ms. Tamarisk Grummit from Wildlife SOS UK, said, “Rhea has been through so much hardship during her life in the circus and was in dire need of our help to give her a chance at recovery. It was a delight to see her so happy and peaceful with her sisters at her new home in Mathura”.
About Wildlife SOS: A Non-Profit Organization, Wildlife SOS is one of the largest rescue & conservation charities in South Asia. They operate ten wildlife rehabilitation facilities across India, including the world’s largest Sloth Bear Rescue Center and the recently established Elephant Conservation and Care Center that currently houses 22 rescued elephants. Wildlife SOS runs tribal rehabilitation projects that aim to create alternative livelihoods for poachers and other indigenous communities that used to exploit wildlife for livelihoods. Additionally, they run a leopard rescue center, a Wildlife Hotline in New Delhi and ‘Forest Watch’ which is an anti-poaching wildlife crime enforcement unit.