After 57 years in captivity, 60-yr-old elephant succumbs to multiple organ failure
Sita’s kidneys and liver weakened over the years owing to slavery, old age and malnutritionUpdated: Apr 22, 2017 21:24 IST
A 60-year-old elephant died in Mathura early on Friday, succumbing to medical complications developed during 57 years of captivity.
Sita was captured from the wild when she was just one-and-a-half years old. For the next 57 years, she was part of a performing crew at a Tamil Nadu-based circus, where she suffered from a badly fused limb owing to a broken leg that was never allowed to heal. She also developed abscesses in her feet and toenail, and ankylosis — an arthritic condition in which joints become fused. Slavery, coupled with old age and malnutrition, weakened her kidneys and liver over the years.
NGO Wildlife SOS rescued Sita and her sister Mia in November 2015. The two elephants were brought to the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura, where their sister Rhea joined them six months later.
“Sita was possibly the worst case of neglect we had seen in a circus elephant,” said Rhea Lopez, elephant campaign manager, Wildlife SOS. “The past one-and-a-half-year testify to the fact that elephants do not do well in forced captivity. She did not deserve that life.”
Elephants survive up to 60 to 65 years in the wild and 70 to 75 years in sanctuaries and other such wildlife centres.
Lopez said Sita’s medical conditions made it impossible for her to lie down or rest, which is why the NGO built a special enclosure for her. It had padded walls, a bed of gunny sacks and a support pole, which she could lean against.
“On Thursday night, Sita showed little interest in her food. Her condition became critical around midnight and despite our best efforts, she passed away at 2:30am on Friday,” said a member of the NGO.
A post-mortem was conducted in the presence of forest officials and government veterinarian Dr S Ilayaraja, deputy-director (veterinary), Wildlife SOS. “Impaired circulation to vital organs, caused by her immobility and inability to rest, led to multiple organ failure,” he said.
Wildlife SOS members mourned Sita’s demise. “Sita was a member of our family. She inspired all of us. We are saddened by the loss,” said Geeta Seshamani, co-founder of Wildlife SOS.
On Saturday morning, Mia and Rhea bid Sita farewell, with forest officials and members of the NGO.