Obese ‘Begging Elephant’ Celebrates 7th Year of Health and Freedom After Rescue

August 24, 2020 Updated: August 24, 2020

A begging elephant, weighing nearly 5,000 kilograms (approx. 11,023 pounds) and subsisting on an unhealthy diet of burgers and sweets, was rescued in 2013. She was recently treated to an altogether healthier feast to mark her seventh year of emancipation.

The animal welfare charity Wildlife SOS told The Epoch Times in a statement that caretakers at the center in Mathura City, India, laid out a colorful spread of watermelons and pumpkins for 25-year-old Laxmi the elephant, whose elephantine appetite for food is matched only by her newly voracious appetite for life.

Epoch Times Photo
Laxmi’s healthy jumbo feast at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation & Care Center in Mathura, India. (Courtesy of Wildlife SOS)

Before her rescue, Laxmi begged for alms outside temples located in the suburban town of Mulund in Mumbai, where she was fed sugary treats and fried foods by passing devotees, the organization said. Sometimes, Laxmi would consume as many as 200 burgers in one day. At the tender age of 18, Laxmi had developed osteoarthritis and damaged footpads as a result of severe obesity.

After Laxmi’s sickly companion elephant that was overfed yet severely malnourished died in front of her, her owner found themselves the subject of a legal inquiry. Eventually, in 2013, Wildlife SOS intervened.

Determined not to see Laxmi fall victim to the same fate as her companion, the nonprofit collaborated with the Mumbai Police and State Forest Department to secure the authority to take Laxmi into their care.

“[W]e knew there was an urgent need to rescue her,” Wildlife SOS co-founder and CEO Kartick Satyanarayan said.

Epoch Times Photo
(L–R) Laxmi tucks in to fresh watermelons and pumpkins with her companions, Bijli and Chanchal. (Courtesy of Wildlife SOS)

Laxmi’s begging days were over, finally.

The young elephant was moved to the charity’s Elephant Conservation & Care Center (ECCC) in Mathura for health care treatment and to enjoy a landscape more akin to what would have been her natural habitat. The playful elephant, despite her abject discomfort, tried to even steer the “elephant ambulance” she was being carried in on her way to the care center.

Writing on their blog, Wildlife SOS noted that Laxmi’s wit and determination to get her way is a “lethal combination.” “Stubbornness, when channeled correctly, leads to determination, and Laxmi very well knows when to make this switch,” Wildlife SOS wrote.

The nonprofit’s Director of Conservation Projects, Baiju Raj M.V., said in the statement that many elephants that come under the center’s care usually suffer from malnourishment and emaciation.

“[B]ut when we first saw Laxmi,” he said, “we were worried about how her weight had impacted her overall health.”

Epoch Times Photo
(L–R) Bijli, Chanchal, and Laxmi at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation & Care Center, Mathura, India. (Courtesy of Wildlife SOS)

Laxmi was put under a carefully managed diet and exercise plan, and since her rescue, the adorable jumbo has lost almost 700 kilograms (approx. 1,543 pounds) at a healthy pace. Her weight loss has lessened the burden on her young body.

All sterling efforts deserve a great reward. In July, to mark Laxmi’s seventh year free from her past life, Wildlife SOS staffers organized a “jumbo feast” for Laxmi and her two new, inseparable companions, Bijli and Chanchal. Footage from the celebratory feast shows all three elephants tucking in to the healthy spread of pink watermelons and juicy pumpkins with gusto.

Watermelons, apples, and whole bunches of bananas, Wildlife SOS notes on its blog, are Laxmi’s absolute favorite foods.

Wildlife SOS has been active since 1995 and has worked hands-on with elephants for over a decade. The Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura partnered with India’s first specially designated Elephant Hospital in 2018, allowing the nonprofit’s work to become more impactful than ever.

“It is reassuring to see that our efforts over these years have made a positive difference to Laxmi’s life,” Satyanarayan said. “[Laxmi’s] peculiar habits never fail to win our hearts, and we hope that the journey ahead of her will be filled with peace and happiness.”

The co-founder and secretary of Wildlife SOS, Geeta Seshamani, said that the organization aims “not only to rescue wild animals from distress and abuse in captivity, but also to provide them with a safer, happier, and healthier life post-rescue.”

“Laxmi is a constant source of joy for all of us,” she said.

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