A Happy Ending for “Delhi’s Last Elephant” Lakshmi, Whose Begging Days are Behind Her


A Happy Ending for “Delhi’s Last Elephant” Lakshmi, Whose Begging Days are Behind Her

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

The past year has seen several disheartening stories of animal cruelty and abuse. So it is quite a relief to hear about one that has a happy ending. At the Ban Santour Elephant Rehabilitation Centre in Haryana, an elephant named Jasmine is marking one year of freedom from a life of begging on Delhi’s roads. Jasmine, who was called Lakshmi by her former owner and was rescued by the forest department last year after a dramatic search that lasted for two months, has been spending the past year resting up at the rehabilitation centre, recovering from the wounds and negative effects of spending a life in the alien urban environment of the capital.

To mark the special occasion, workers from Wildlife SOS, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that participated in Laskhmi’s rescue and also jointly operates the rehabilitation centre, laid out a feast for the elephant. “She was delighted to find a lavish spread of her favourite fruits waiting for her when she returned from a morning stroll,” said Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder and CEO, Wildlife SOS. After spending years being made to beg on the streets of Delhi, through its hot summers and cold winters, Jasmine is now able to spend her days amid the 400 acres of forested land attached to Ban Santour Elephant Rehabilitation Centre.

When she was called Lakshmi, the elephant was also known as “Delhi’s Last Elephant”, as she was the only one left in Delhi following a 2016 order from the High Court that all captive elephants within the city be moved to rehabilitation centres. Lakshmi became the subject of headlines as her mahout and she went missing before forest department officials could take custody. For two months, their whereabouts were unknown, until they were finally found, and Lakshmi could be shifted to a more humane environment.

There’s no doubt the big girl must be happier at Ban Santour, spending her days socialising with her own kind and feeding on fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables.