Mohan, dubbed the world’s unluckiest elephant, suffered 50 years of backbreaking labor, neglect, beatings and starvation at the hands of his owner, who went to great lengths to prevent repeated rescue attempts.
One rescue attempt by Wildlife SOS was turned away by an angry mob that threatened to damage the organization’s elephant ambulance and even chased the driver.
But after two years of legal battles and delays, even an angry mob couldn’t prevent Wildlife SOS from finally rescuing Mohan in July and transporting him to Pratapgarh city, where he was kept under supervision by the forest service.
On Thursday in what The Indian Express called a “fairytale ending” to one of the country’s most dramatic rescues of captive elephants, Mohan made the 310-mile journey from Pratapgarh to the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura, where he will live out the rest of his life in comfort and care.
In a YouTube video, Wildlife SOS recapped his long and painful journey to freedom, which ended under a banner that read “Welcome Home Mohan”:
“It is with immense joy that we welcomed Mohan to the sanctuary,” Wildlife SOS cofounder Geeta Seshamani said in a statement sent to GrindTV.
“His freedom has been a long time coming, and we are so grateful to everyone who stood strong through this long and often disheartening and dangerous fight for his freedom.”
And it was a fight.
Repeated rescue attempts by wildlife officials and conservation groups were “stymied” by Mohan’s former owner, who took the elephant to secret locations to avoid detection. When Wildlife SOS and Indian government authorities were able to locate the elephant, they were greeted by hostile mobs.
Finally, after nearly 20 legal delays, Wildlife SOS got the go-ahead to take Mohan in July, and even then an angry mob attempted to stop the rescue. But with the help of police and the forest department, this time the organization succeeded.
Mohan, who was likely separated from his family by poachers as a calf, was kept in shackles, forced to beg for food on the streets and required to carry heavy loads on his back during his time with abusive owners.
Now he’ll receive love and attention, not to mention proper medical care and a proper diet.
“This has been an incredibly difficult fight,” said Nikki Sharp, executive director of the WSOS United States branch. “But most of the hard work still lies ahead in teaching Mohan how to be a real elephant.
“We don’t feel like we can give him all those years back that he lost. But we do feel confident that we can give him a great life at our sanctuary. We can give him joy and happiness -- something I think he rarely experienced before.”
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