Priyanka, a 44-year-old elephant, is finally experiencing freedom after life in captivity for over 40 years. Through a carefully planned rescue that began over a year ago, Wildlife SOS, with the help of the Forest Department and police, saved Priyanka from continuing a life of abuse for human entertainment.

Illegally owned, threatened with bull hooks and chains, Priyanka spent most of her life on the hot streets of India, relentlessly subjected to people climbing and riding her every day. As evidenced by her veterinary examination upon arrival at the sanctuary, she was malnourished and suffering. Her treatment by her previous owners resulted in a slew of injuries. Her hind legs are twisted unnaturally, and an X-ray shows fractures in both hind feet. Her eye exam indicates she is likely going blind. And she has fungal ear and trunk infections along with a host of parasites.

But now, relocated at the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre, she will spend her days eating sugar cane and vegetables, walking on dirt, and socializing with other elephants — receiving much deserved care. Hopefully, under the watch of veterinarians and in an environment in which she can thrive, most of her maladies will resolve quickly.

Already within a a week of relocation to her new home, she has made a friend in Laxmi, another elephant rescued from a life of cruelty. Elephants are highly social and intelligent animals; existing in solitary confinement apart from any other elephants was yet another criminal abuse suffered by Priyanka. That makes this interaction all the more heartwarming:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUeKsCbYUgg]

Despite the fact that she was illegally owned, the rescue was a risk to Priyanka’s life as well as that of the rescuers. But now she and the rescue team are safe, while her traffickers face deserved criminal charges.

Not all elephants are as fortunate. The more we do to change the idea that animals are here for our consumption and amusement (and therefore abuse), the higher their chances for peace and freedom.

Priyanka is a Hindu name meaning “beloved” or “lovable.” It’s hard-earned justice that this beloved elephant is finally living a lovable life.