India Just Opened Its First Elephant Hospital — and the Pictures Are Amazing

Elephants that are battered, bruised, and otherwise injured can now get the medical help they need in Uttar Pradesh, India, according to Reuters.

A 12,000-square-foot elephant hospital opened in the city of Mathura on Nov. 16 that caters primarily to elderly elephants and those that have experienced trauma in captivity. For example, many captive elephants are often shackled, whipped, and beaten. Other elephants that sustain injuries in the wild are also welcomed at the hospital.

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Elephant doctors will have access to “wireless digital X-Ray, thermal imaging, ultrasonography, tranquilization devices, and quarantine facilities,” and they’ll be able to visit elephants remotely that aren’t able to travel to the hospital, according to Reuters.

Animal rights groups are applauding the facility, called the Wildlife SOS Hospital, as a sign of conservation done right.

“I think by building a hospital we are underlining the fact that elephants need welfare measures as much as any other animal,” Geeta Seshamani, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, the nonprofit behind the hospital, told Reuters.

“That captive elephants are not meant to be used and abused but instead have to be given the respect which an animal needs if you are going to be using the animal,” she added.

India is home to half of Asia’s elephant population, yet their numbers have been dropping in recent years, and Indian elephants are considered endangered.

Indian elephants roam for around 19 hours a day and eat so much food that they can produce up to 220 pounds of waste each day. These biological imperatives mean that the animals need large amounts of land and food to survive. As human development proliferates in the country, elephant habitats are dwindling, depriving the animals of sustenance.

As humans move into elephant ranges, meanwhile, the big creatures more frequently wander into towns and cities, where they get frightened and stampede over houses and people. Deprived of food sources, elephants also devour crops throughout farmlands, earning the ire of the agricultural industry. These byproducts of sprawling and often unregulated human development have led to elephants being poisoned and hunted to minimize interactions.

Elephants are also under the constant threat of poaching to fuel the black market demand for ivory. Because only male Indian elephants have tusks, poaching skews the sex ratio of the species, imperiling future generations.

While the elephant hospital in Mathura doesn’t guarantee the species’ long-term survival, it does signal to the country that elephants are worth protecting.

It has also become a tourist attraction, according to Reuters, which could help spur broader conservation efforts.

In addition to the treatment center, dedicated wildlife reserves big enough to accommodate the animal’s tendencies can help to conserve the species and India currently has 32 elephant reserves.

For example, the North Bank Landscape along the foothills of the Himalayas provides 1,600 square miles of protected habitat for elephants to live.

SOURCE: Global Citizen