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I am Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS in India. My team and I recently rescued Raju the elephant, who had endured 50 years of cruelty. "The elephant who cried" is now safe in our care. Ask me anything.

Jul 19th 2014 by WildlifeSOS • 29 Questions • 3230 Points

Hello, reddit. We at Wildlife SOS were INCREDIBLY inspired to see your community's response to our work, in particular the saving of Raju the Elephant. I co-founded Wildlife SOS in 1995 to help drive lasting change to protect and conserve India's natural heritage, forests and wildlife wealth. We have helped save the last of the dancing bears in India, for example, in addition to our work with elephants like Raju. You can learn more about our work on our official site here. I am looking forward to taking your questions, so AMA."

PROOF : https://twitter.com/WildlifeSOS/status/490493462588841985

Thank you all so much for taking the time to come ask me questions and learn about what Wildlife SOS does to protect animals in India. Your support is deeply appreciated. On behalf of Raju and all the animals we protect, we thank you. For further information please feel free to send an email on [email protected]

Q:

Do the animals you rescue have trust issues with humans since they have been mistreated their entire life? How do you combat these trust issues?

A:

Yes, the animals we rescue often have serious trust issues. It takes a long time and a lot of patience to rebuild the trust with these animals. Quite often it means we have to be very careful with our tones and behave very cautiously in the presence of these animals who have been traumatised so they disassociate their past trauma with their present situation and current environment. It is however easier said than done! You can read some of our rescue stories on www.wildlifesos.org and on www.facebook.com/wildlifesosindia


Q:

This organization is really doing a good thing. I wish you the best and look forward to hear more about your "adventures"

A:

Thank you for your encouragement. Appreciate your kind words :-)


Q:

What are some of the hardest challenges you face when trying to save wildlife?

A:

The hardest challenges when trying to save wildlife is to manage a mob especially when its a human wildlife conflict situation. And then theres the challenge with financial resources that we need to find to help save and protect wildlife


Q:

Was there any punishment dealt to the people who were responsible?

A:

We will be initiating legal action against the people who were responsible and are putting together a legal fund to support the legal appeal we plan to proceed with against the previous custodians of Raju who caused him this suffering!


Q:

Sweet, hope it all works out for you and those people get what's coming to them.

A:

Yes, We hope that Justice will prevail. We will keep you updated if you sign up for the Wildlife SOS newsletter on www.wildlifesos.org


Q:

Done and done, good luck

A:

Thank you :-) We need all the luck we can get thrown in our direction and of course support...


Q:

I myself am from a small village which lives in a rain forest. I have seen the destruction first hand of logging company's. They have destroyed my mothers home and have been in a court battle over the rights of the land since 2001. My question is, how did you manage to start your foundation and overcome your difficulties? Sometimes as a young person, I feel like there is nothing I can do to help?

A:

Dont ever Give up! Believe in yourself and you must be prepared for the long haul, a little sacrifice and frustration. You will succeed.


Q:

Thank you for replying! Have a good day. :)

A:

You too. Also dont buy a weapon even though you will be tempted to take things into your own hands.


Q:

How can we help Raju? Is there a wish list for him?

A:

yes, There is a long wish list that we need for Raju. We need Diesel Generators to fill his pond with fresh water, a tractor & a trolley to get him fresh fodder, Darting equipment, Medicines, Medical equipment like a mobile ultrasound, intravenous fluids, deep freeze for supplies, refrigerator for medicines etc. I can email a list to you if you can email me on [email protected]


Q:

Hi! Thank you for all that you do. I very much admire your work. I have always been interested in wildlife rescue. I got my undergrad in wildlife management and a masters in conservation biology. I had hoped to be a wildlife rescuer, but was not able to find any career opportunities in it (even very few internships). I now work in large breed dog rescue and ADORE what I do, but would someday still love to work with wildlife. How did you get started in the work that you do?


Q:

how come it took 50 years in captivity. Was raju that well hidden by the owner?

A:

Yes, Raju was well hidden and used in extremely rural areas along the Indo nepal border. His situation was reported to us when he was noticed by forest officers in Allahabad city in Uttar Pradesh


Q:

Hello Kartick, thank you for doing this AmA.

Firstly, Have you ever had a rescue go wrong? If so, what happened?

Secondly, what aspect of your job is the hardest? Maybe some things you have had to come to terms with or particular challenges?

Finally, thank you very much for your contributions and for what you do.

A:

Thank you. Im delighted to be able to connect with the Reddit community. Working with people is the hardest challenge and working with the animals is of course the easiest and the most fulfilling. We had a bear rescue in a state next to Delhi that went terribly wrong and put our team at severe risk. We have also had anti poaching operations that have gone terribly wrong and i have found myself staring at the barrel of an automatic weapon! Thankfully we had police backup and escaped with our life by the skin of our teeth!


Q:

Wow. I can only say that you are hardcore. I cannot imagine having stared down the barrel of a gun and still continue to do what you do.

I admire you, your team and the work you do.

One more question if you have the time, do you believe that the animals you have rescued realize what you and your team have done for them, or is it more of a human projection onto the animal?

Thank you very much for your time.

A:

I think animals often realise that. but we as humans must learn not to expect gratitude. I think we also try to help animals to fulfil our desire to make a difference as well. We have to live life to the fullest and give back as much as we can. Take as little as possible while giving as much :-) You can come and volunteer with us in India if you like. Write to us on [email protected]


Q:

Thank you for the volunteering info. I hope your organization may benefit from this AmA.

What are your hopes for the future of your organization? What about the future of the relationship between humans and animals? What might your position be on the idea of zoos?

Once again, thank you for your time and answers!

A:

I hope Wildlife SOS is able to create a platform of change to help people understand wildlife, biodiversity and animals around them and learn to coexist with nature in a more mature and accepting way. For Wildlife SOS to be effective we need all the support we can get and we need people to stand behind us and help us be effective. Zoos can be valuable conservation education tools if they can ensure the welfare of the animals they have in their care. Often the challenge is to ensure zoo animals have a naturalistic environment and are provided all the enrichment they require to prevent boredom. This is difficult as zoos are in cities where real estate becomes a premium very soon. Zoos can ensure better care if they have larger land parcels which they can then use for the animals in their care.


Q:

I don't know a ton about India or Indian elephants, but is this kind of abuse common? How many elephants have Wildlife SOS rescued?

A:

Wildlife SOS has rescued 11 elephants so far. Raju is our eleventh rescue! Sadly elephants in India do get abused but this was excruciatingly painful to watch. Wildlife SOS has a long term plan to introduce humane elephant management using positive reinforcement in an attempt to slowly change people's mindsets about using the traditional but cruel and inhumane method of training, managing and treating elephants.


Q:

What do you think is the best way to balance between the poor villagers' needs for survivorship and the conservation of threatened species? Eco-tourism has always been touted as the panacea but from what I gather, the revenue is less than expected in many places where it has been implemented.

A:

The best way to balance poor villagers needs for survivorship and conservation of threatened species is to use a sustainable model to improve the quality of life of the communities that are forest or wildlife dependant. Wildlife SOS has been working extensively with indigenous communities who have been traditional hunters and dependant on wildlife for their livelihoods. 40% of Wildlife SOS staff belong to these communities. Today, a lot of our wildlife rescue staff are former poachers. Here are two examples of how Wildlife SOS works with communities in a sustainable manner

http://www.ted.com/talks/kartick_satyanarayan_how_we_rescued_the_dancing_bears

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4zsbr6YKFA


Q:

I heard that keeping elephant bulls can be very dangerous. How do you handle them, compared to the females? Do you have to separate them from other male elephants? And what happens when they are in musth?

Thank you for your answer and all the great work you do for animals!

A:

Managing bull elephants is certainly a lot more complex than managing cow elephants. When they are in musth they need privacy, quiet and very careful and gentle handing. However we have learnt that with the right kind of management, you can manage bulls in musth also without too much trouble. Exercising them during musth is the challenge. To address this Wildlife SOS is working to buy land for expanding our elephant center. It costs us about 50,000$ per acre and we need at least 10 acres to address this issue immediately. So we need about 500,000$ for securing the land for the elephants. This can help us manage the bull elephants in a much better way.


Q:

Thank you so much for everything that you do! I am now a monthly contributor to Wildlife SOS and I have learned so much from the experience with Raju. One of the things that has horrified me is the "training" baby elephants receive called phajaan. Does your organization work to fight this type of abuse?

A:

Yes, We are in the process of working with the Karnataka Forest Department to help them develop a humane elephant management system to replace the traditional elephant training methods based on negative reinforcement in Sakrebaylu elephant camp where there was an elephant calf whose training video has been doing the rounds on the net.


Q:

How problematic are circuses to your cause these days? Are there certain ones or all that should be boycotted?

A:

Circuses in India are not supposed to elephants. Wildlife SOS will be launching an appeal to gather signatures to bring an end to the use of elephants in circuses across India. However there are close to 80 elephants that need to be rescued from these circuses where they are held captive in very appalling conditions. It will require a lot of financial resources to make this happen. With your support we can make this happen.


Q:

What is Raju's health condition presently, are you confident of his recovery? Does he need surgery on his wounds?

A:

Yes, we are confident of Raju's recovery. But it will take a long time. He may require surgery at some point of time. His legs which were subjected to chaining, spearing and spiking are infected and filled with puss. We do need a lot of medicines and medical equipment in addition to his water therapy pool which will help him take the weight off of his legs to help him rest his legs.


Q:

How much funds do you need for Raju annually?

A:

In the first year we would need a minimum of about 100,000 $ USD to provide for Raju's care. Of course this includes the infrastructure required for his shelter, pool etc. From year two onwards we would not require the infrastructure but he will still cost us around 50,000$ to 60,000$ a year. This includes his medical care, feeding, long term maintenance, enrichment. From our observation it looks like Raju may have special needs to help him recover from his past trauma. We do need some medical equipment like an ultrasound and some other equipment for his treatment.


Q:

After a couple weeks with you, how is Raju's spirits? Do you think that the other elephants have communicated with him to help him feel at ease?

A:

Raju is a survivor. He has taught us a lot! His spirit was broken when we rescued him. Now we can see that he is sensing that he is at a better place. His immediate neighbour is Rajesh the big tusker bull who often calls out to him. Here's a photo of Rajesh playing in the rain. The presence of the other elephants around Raju is helping to reassure him that he is safe now!


Q:

Unfortunately the picture isn't there, can you try and reattach it? Thanks!

A:

https://www.facebook.com/wildlifesosindia/photos/a.76535498525.80634.47398783525/10152261846048526/?type=1&theater

Here's a picture of Rajesh. If you still cant see it please go to www.facebook.com/wildlifesosindia and then look for the post from yesterday.


Q:

How long did it take to plan out the whole rescue operation?

A:

It took us several weeks to plan the rescue operation. There was legal paper work we need to secure for his custody which also took us almost a year before we could start planning the rescue operation itself


Q:

Will you be setting up a specific page for Raju where people can make donations or see the list you mentioned?


Q:

What happens to Earth when there is no longer any habitat for animals? Realistically the turning point is coming so what is the plan?

A:

When that actually happens there will also be no trees and no oxygen! Im not sure it may be very habitable at that time. Hopefully many of us wont live to see that day. I certainly dont want to...