Visit to Elephant Rescue Center

Bama STEM MBAs Visit Elephant Rescue Center

I posted a short story about this on Facebook a couple of days ago but am adding a post to our blog.

Yesterday we interrupted our itinerary.  Our host, Mahesh, received a call from an old friend, offering a visit for us to Elefriends 101, an elephant rescue center and sanctuary near Mahabalipuram on the coast of the Bay of Bengal.  It was a terrific opportunity and we jumped at the chance.

STEM MBA student Ben Guerra feeds one of the rescued elephants a chunk of papaya.

STEM MBA student Ben Guerra feeds one of the rescued elephants a chunk of papaya.

Three subspecies of the Asian elephant remain today:  Elephas maximus maximus, native to Sri Lanka;  Elephas maximus sumatranas from Sumatra; and Elephas maximus indicus from India.  Elephas maximus is an endangered species, having lost greater than 50% of its population over the last 60-75 years.

Elephants residing at rescue center, out for one of their daily walks.

Elephants residing at rescue center, out for one of their daily walks.

STEM MBA students watch the elephants leave their exercise area to head back to the center.

STEM MBA students watch the elephants leave their exercise area to head back to the center.

Like a lot of endangered species, the decline in population is largely attributed to decline in natural habitat, both in terms of area and quality of the environment, as well as capture and poaching.  In the recent past, Indian elephants were captured, typically as calves, and placed in zoos and circuses, Hindu temples scattered across India, and work farms.

The three Asian elephants catch a drink and splash mud on themselves to protect them from sun burn.

The three Asian elephants catch a drink and splash mud on themselves to protect them from sun burn.

 

STEM MBA students take in the sight.

STEM MBA students take in the sight.

Elefriends 101 is a fairly new venture and hopes to grow.  The center currently provides a home for three adult female elephants, all of which were rescued from Hindu temples.  The temple staff would typically chain a hind leg and a front leg, using shackles, to posts that provided the elephant negligible room to move around.  Additionally, the elephants were made to sleep on a concrete floor, which led to pressure sores on their hips, shoulders, and legs.  It’s estimated that the oldest of the three elephants at Elefriends 101 was in captivity in these conditions  for over 30 years before her rescue.

The team.

The team.

Students look on as the elephants play in the mud.

Students look on as the elephants play in the mud.

Filmmaker Sangita Iyer created a documentary addressing the capturing of Indian elephants and their use in these various ways.  It was covered in the Telegraph.  It seems that progress is being made, thanks to these efforts to publicize the problem and the efforts made to care for the animals.

The elephants love the papaya and the students took turns shoveling it in.  Josh perfected a two-handed technique.

The elephants love the papaya and the students took turns shoveling it in. Josh perfected a two-handed technique.

You can learn more about these elephants by visiting Elefriends 101 on Facebook.  Hope you enjoy the photos below of our group at the rescue center.

Juan feeds the elephant.

Juan feeds the elephant.

Jimmy tries his hand at feeding.

Jimmy tries his hand at feeding.

Jake feeds one elephant while Ben checks out the trunk of another.

Jake feeds one elephant while Ben checks out the trunk of another.

Elephants 2

Elephants 3

Trying to feed her without losing a finger.

Trying to feed her without losing a finger.

Elephants 5

 

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