New Delhi: Animal activists call him the “unluckiest elephant” they had known so far and it took over 50 police officers, several foresters and a 20-hour-long operation following years of legal battle to finally rescue Mohan from slavery.
Now free from its influential and politically-backed captors in Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh, after the district court intervened, Mohan — a 55-year-old male elephant — is now in Uttar Pradesh forest department’s custody.
Mohan along with Raju, another elephant which had been rescued by the animal welfare organisation ‘Wildlife SOS’ two years back from Allahabad, was caught as a calf and sold at Sonepur Cattle Fair, Bihar.
“Both Raju and Mohan were used as begging elephants. They were placed outside a temple or roadside, and people would throw money for receiving blessings from the elephant, through a gentle tap by its trunk on the customer’s head,” Suvidha Bhatnagar from Wildlife SOS told IANS on Sunday.
“We wanted to rescue them both together, but the legal battle in case of Mohan took too long,” she added.
The medical report of the elephant says that he is very thin and ’emaciated’ due to severe starvation.
“There were multiple wounds on his body and ears, due to beating and poking by sharp objects. The feet injuries would lead to permanent joint disorders if not properly treated immediately. The elephant’s dung had a lot of round worms and indicated severe worm infestation,” the report said.
The rescue operation, assisted by Wildlife SOS, also faced resistance from the supporters of the captors and they damaged one vehicle.
The mahout of Mohan has been arrested, while two other captors are on run, official told IANS.
“Mohan was transferred to custody of forest department in Pratapgarh where he will be provided medical care for the time being,” said Y.P. Shukla, Prataphgarh District Forest Officer.
On July 12, the District Court in Pratapgarh ordered police to file an FIR against the three captors holding the elephant in illegal custody and seize the animal within three days. However, Mohan could be rescued only nine days later due to local political pressure.
“The elephant was in such a location where vehicles cannot reach. The nearest road was about five km away,” Adarsh Singh, District Magistrate of Pratapgarh told IANS. He, however, denied any political pressure against the rescue.
Wildlife SOS and the forest department of Uttar Pradesh had earlier made several attempts to secure Mohan’s rescue. However, the attempts failed as the legal proceedings were postponed and delayed repeatedly.
“Hope this breakthrough in attaining Mohan’s long overdue freedom would initiate zero tolerance for illegal ownership of elephants in country, where they are we pray to them in the form of Ganesha but also torture them. I hope that this rescue would give hope for elephants across the country which are held illegally,” Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, told IANS.