Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – November 26, 2015


After spending decades in the circus, elephants Mia and Sita were
rescued by an animal welfare group on Sunday, and are now en
route to a conservation center on board India’s first customized
elephant ambulance.

The two elephants were rescued by Wildlife SOS on Sunday from
the Great Circus at Thiruvanamalai, Tamil Nadu.

Mia and Sita are the sixth and seventh elephants to be rescued this
year for being illegally used in circus performances and for
documented maltreatment.

Mia had an emotional breakdown three years back and stampeded
through the circus grounds destroying property. As punishment,
circus managers had her chained, flogged and put in solitary
confinement for up to six months.

Wildlife SOS is in the process of accumulating evidence of the
torture meted out to Mia; if successful they will attempt to close the

“With the addition of Mia and Sita to the herd, we have now rescued
more than 10 percent of all the elephants remaining in Indian
circuses,” said Geeta Seshamani, co-founder of Wildlife SOS. “We
are proud of this progress, but are committed to see this campaign
through to the end.”

Mia and Sita, both in their 50’s, are due to reach the conservation
center at Mathura, 50 kilometers north of Agra, on Wednesday.
Each needs medical attention.

Mia is developing a cataract in her eyes, has painful inflammation in
both hind legs and abscesses in her toenails. Sita’s right foreleg
never healed properly from an old fracture and is fused, so that she
cannot bend it.

Two years ago Wildlife SOS was instrumental in the rescue of Raju,
the elephant who wept after being released from a life in chains for
55 years in another Indian circus, which has since moved to

What they say about elephant memory is true.
Elephants’ brains are much denser than humans’.
The temporal lobes associated with memory are more complexly
developed than in humans.
Vastly more space for remembering.

Mia and Sita’s rescue marks the inaugural trip of Wildlife SOS’s
state-of-the-art elephant ambulance, which is equipped with an
automatic electric hydraulic ramp, showers, dual power supply, and
a dedicated chamber for the veterinary team with washing and
treatment preparation area.