The life of a circus elephant is anything but easy. Most are beaten brutally, forced to perform unnatural tricks, and starved into submission for people’s entertainment.
72-year-old Suzy is no exception: having spent years in abusive environments, she bears deep physical and psychological scars.
However, thanks to the conservation charity Wildlife SOS, she is now able to spend the rest of her life in a stress-free, caring environment.
Suzy’s life as a performing elephant began some seventy years earlier when as a calf she was snatched from the wild and separated from her family.
She would spend the next six decades being abused in a circus.
Through a process called “phajaan”, which literally means crushing an animal’s spirit, Suzy was beaten brutally and starved until she was mentally and physically broken.
Years of being struck in the head and prodded with sharp instruments gradually led to cataracts, and eventually, Suzy lost her vision completely.
India-based conservation agency Wildlife SOS first encountered Suzy in posters in the city of Tamil Nudu in 2015. Suzy was shown contorted in unnatural positions and clearly suffering; Wildlife SOS fought and finally succeeded in freeing her. She was brought to the Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura.
At the conservation center, Suzy has an entirely new life. Caregivers at Wildlife SOS make sure to give the elderly elephants the best possible care. She receives regular check-ups and treatments to prevent age-related diseases. Because she has lost several teeth over time, care staff prepare a concoction of mashed-up fruits and vegetables that are easy for her to slurp down.
Caring for Suzy was not easy at the beginning, as she was (understandably) mistrustful of humans. Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-founder & CEO of Wildlife SOS said, “Caring for visually impaired elephants is a challenging experience, particularly when they have suffered immensely and hold no positive memories of their interactions with humans. Understandably, trust is slow to build but rest assured, our team is with them every step of the way on their road to recovery.”
To add stability to her previously tumultuous life, Suzy’s caregiver has remained the same over the years. Although it was initially difficult, the two now share a great bond. Suzy trusts her caregiver to comfort her during treatments and lead her on walks around the reservation.
In this loving and caring environment, Suzy is now prospering. Geeta Seshamani, Co-Founder and Secretary of Wildlife SOS said, “At the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre, Suzy blossomed a personality unlike any elephant we’ve seen, with quirks and characteristics so uniquely her own, we can spend hours on end with her— marveling at the tenacity and strength she displays despite her advanced age.”
This article by Ella Pace was first published by OneGreenPlanet on 11 November 2022.
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