Lakhi, a 60-year-old blind elephant who suffered years of torture from her owner, is finally going to a real home, one where she will be cared for and live happily ever after with other rescued elephants.
Lakhi is currently being trucked 870 miles from Pune, Maharashtra, India, to the Elephant Conservation and Care Center of Wildlife SOS in Mathura, India—the same place where Raju resides. Raju's rescue became a global story when he cried once he realized he was being rescued after 50 years of abuse.
As of Thursday, the Lakhi convoy—including veterinarians from ResQ Charitable Trust, which was caring for Lakhi in Pune—had traveled 31 miles.
Lakhi might have a long way to travel to get to her new home, but it is nothing compared to the insufferable journey she was forced to endure for most of her life.
According to Wildlife SOS, Lakhi was used as a begging elephant, was never allowed proper rest or given appropriate elephant food, and suffered puncture and abrasion wounds as a result of spiked chains constantly around her feet.
Mishandled and whipped all her life, she has several wounds on her chest, forehead, and back. A painful swelling on the left temporal region, which is clearly visible, speaks for the torture she must have undergone. One such injury caused by her handlers seems to have affected her vision completely. Lakhi is blind in both the eyes and is constantly at the risk of serious accidents if not guided properly.
"For more than seven years, we had been trying to rescue the blind elephant, Lakhi, and two other elephants owned by one Ramesh Lekhraj Pandey," People for Animals (PFA) activist Manoj Oswal told The India Times. "In the past two years, the other two passed away after being forced to beg on the streets of Pune. We are happy to have saved Lakhi from a hellish life of abuse."
It was a lucky tip that led to the rescue two months ago. PFA was told the owner was going to use the ailing, blind elephant to work at a film shoot in Karjat, Raigad district. PFA confirmed the finding and lodged a complaint with a Raigad range forest officer.
"This crucial evidence of a blind elephant being made to work in a film shoot was taken cognizance of by the Pune-based judicial magistrate court first class (JMFC), and the animal was handed in our custody," Oswal told The India Times.
But the battle wasn't over just yet. Lakhi's owner apparently took PFA to court in an attempt to get her back, just as Raju's owner tried.
Finally, a couple of weeks ago, it became official. Lakhi was free.
"The court has now ruled in Lakhi’s favor!" ResQ Charitable Trust wrote on a Feb. 8 Facebook post. "Lakhi is getting set to permanently go to Wildlife SOS, Mathura, which is an elephant rescue center. Things took longer than we anticipated but at least the good news has finally come through!"
"The court has taken cognizance of the extreme cruelty meted out to Lakhi and her poor medical condition caused by years of torture and pain,” Tanvi Kulkarni, chairperson of PFA, told The India Times. “I am happy to see that she is finally getting justice and she will live in the company of other elephants in a completely natural environment.”
The convoy delivering Lakhi to her new home is expected to take several days, then the happily-ever-after can finally begin for the blind elephant.
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