This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Merril Diniz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Dear Maha CM, These Rescued Elephants Just Got Sent Back To A Gruesome Hell. Help?

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By Merril Diniz:

Mother daughter duo Goldie and Sylvie enjoy some snacks, post rescue
The mother-daughter duo Goldie and Sylvie enjoy some snacks after their rescue.

A few weeks back, with a mixture of heartbreak and hope, I wrote a piece about the institutionalised abuse and violation of elephants in India in circuses, zoos, places of worship, for begging and general entertainment. I ended the piece on a note of hope, as at the time rescue and rehabilitation organisation, Wildlife SOS had just rescued four severely abused and battered elephants Goldie, Sylvia, Pearl and Ruby, from the Rambo Circus in Pune. It was a tough rescue, as circus personnel were upset at the prospect of losing their animals, even though it is illegal to abuse performing animals in the circus.

Come to be known as the #PreciousFour, the plan was to transport them by road to the organisation’s sanctuary in Agra, which hosts 22 rescued elephants, including 52­-year-old Raju, who made international headlines in 2014, for shedding tears, as soon as he understood he was being rescued. Due to the poor state of their health, however, the elephants were held in a temporary shelter in Pune, where they could be attended to medically, until they were strong enough to travel the distance to Agra (Watch their dramatic rescue here).

Elephants chained and standing in their own feces at the circus
Elephants chained and standing in their own faeces at the circus.

But in a cruel twist of fate, the Pune courts, have ordered the four to be returned to the circus. The Circus claimed in court that the notice filed by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) had not been sent to the correct postal address. There was no substantial documentation to refute the Circus’ claim during the argument, and after an eight-hour standoff with Wildlife SOS, the Rambo Circus seized all four elephants today (June 23, 2016).

52-year-old Goldie, the oldest of the lot, is blind. Her daughter, Sylvie, has been severely traumatised due to years of abuse. The other two – Pearl and Ruby – are extremely close and inseparable. All four are ailing from years of abuse and all four were just about showing signs of recovery – both psychologically, and physically.

The irony is that while the court order states that the circus may use the animals for performances while not subjecting them to cruelty, the fact is that elephants cannot be made to perform tricks without subjecting them to beatings and constant prodding. Rambo Circus, of course, denies abusing the elephants. But the proof can be seen on the bodies of these pachyderms, who have injuries on their legs, rotting footpads, overgrown toenails, severe debilitation, wounds on their mouths and swelling from circus beatings. They are chained 24/7 often in their own faeces and urine, in spike chains.

Feet in a terrible state
Feet in a terrible state.

Wildlife SOS has now posted a petition on asking Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, to use his powers under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and other relevant laws to take action. “On behalf of Lord Ganesh, please show mercy,” reads the petition.

Incidentally, it was the Maharashtra government itself, which facilitated the rescue, along with the support of the Animal Welfare Board of India. In less than 24 hours, the petition has gathered almost 20,000 signatures, and people the world over are expressing their outrage and disappointment in the court’s decision.

The court order and subsequent seizing of the elephants is a major blot on India’s recent track record in the area of wildlife conservation, rescue and rehabilitation. The dancing bear tradition ground to a halt, when people in the profession, surrendered their bears and were rehabilitated into other professions. Tiger numbers are also up, and animal rescues and rehabilitation is happening on a daily basis by forest officials, NGOs and regular people.

On a different note, internationally, most circuses are changing the very character of their entertainment, by doing away with acts performed by animals. This practice has not only stopped the exploitation of animals, but has made life less stressful for the human performers, as getting wild animals to perform is no easy task. It involves entrapment, physical abuse and also increases the risk of accidents. In short, it takes a certain amount of dehumanising to make this cycle of evil, work.

At this critical juncture, the #PreciousFour need your support. Let’s not allow them to return to their former existence, which is nothing short of “hellish”. You can do your bit by signing and commenting on this petition, inviting others to sign and voicing your concerns on social media.

Let’s stand together and raise our voices against this grave miscarriage of justice!

All photos shared by Wildlife SOS.

You must be to comment.
  1. Shanna Oberreiter

    Thank you very much for covering the story of the Precious Four. Getting the world out across the globe is crucial to keeping the pressure up and returning them to a safe environment with Wildlife SOS. These elephants need to rest. They need medical care. Those circus people are straight out of hell. Please keep the word about the precious four going! We can save them together!

  2. Cleo Masters

    I am so heartbroken by this news – gutted isn’t the word. It is a travesty of justice that these ‘precious four’ elephants, and in such poor state of physical and mental health, should be sent back to their abusers, who had no lawful right to treat them in the way they did – either for circus performances or to be maltreated in the way they were between performances. Something they denied happened, despite the overwhelming medical evidence to the contrary. And their seizure happened because of some clerical oversight from the authorities that took them away from the circus in the first place a few weeks ago – and for the reasons I’ve stated – to give over to the palpable care of Wildlife SOS, supported by their hundreds of thousands of financial doners and spiritual followers and well wishers worldwide. How can anyone take India’s legal system seriously, let alone have respect for their laws, if they are so patently ignored – flouted with such ease with the blessing of many corrupt officials and judges, so it seems to me. For the courts to prioritise clerical oversights and to overlook the tangible evidential cruelty meted out to these captives who will experience more of the same brutality and starvation, as a result of this decision, is completely beyond comprehension. The animals will be traumatised all over again in a short time if the circus is allowed to keep them. That’s why it is imperative that these elephants return to Wildlife SOS care as soon as possible. The world is watching now, and numerous followers to Wildlife SOS are doing all they can to spread the word to influential people and animal rights activists, journalists – and anyone else who can act and listen – to disarm this circus’ claim on the elephants permanently so that they can be reclaimed again -back into the welcoming, caring arms of the charity that will care for them into their old age – as they richly deserve. PLEASE SUPPORT WILDLIFE SOS’S EFFORTS TO RE-CLAIM THESE ELEPHANTS AND HELP END THE ABUSE OF ANIMALS USED FOR THE TOURIST AND ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY.

  3. Meena Arora


  4. Merril Diniz

    Hi Shanna, I wrote this piece with a lot of pain and I really hope it can garner some traction for these poor elephants, and in fact all the animals taken back by Rambo Circus. There were around 22, I think. Let’s keep tweeting, sharing and speaking out on social media.

    1. woodenshoes1948


  5. Merril Diniz

    Hi Cleo, I completely relate to how you feel. Hopefully the #PreciousFour will be free soon. Let’s keep up the momentum to free them in the meantime.

  6. Lindy Vejar

    Thank you for publishing this story. Global outrage is surging from the Magistrates decision. Outside of India, elephant advocates are suggested to contact local Indian embassies to share complaints. There are a couple petitions circulating. In addition, others have been encouraged to write Maharastra Tourism about retiring the animals. – I am told they support Rambo Circus.

    1. Merril Diniz

      Lindy, what people need to realise is this – whether animals performing in a circus is legal or illegal, it is ethically wrong to torture and abuse animals, for profit and entertainment. All working elephants shoot be set free and moved into sanctuaries.

  7. woodenshoes1948


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