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Cantaloupes and Footballs

By Sharon St. Joan 


When Maya arrived at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Rescue Centre at Mathura, she weighed 3,890 kilos (8,558 pounds).  That may sound like a lot, but for a big elephant like Maya it wasn’t.  She was really skinny; she never seemed to get enough to eat at the circus, and the people there really weren’t nice to her at all.  Now she weighs 4,700 kilos (10,340 pounds), which is just right for a big elephant like Maya.  Her favorite food is musk melons, which are a bit like cantaloupes. 
The day she arrived and for the next couple of days, Maya wasn’t quite sure she’d been rescued, and she was still suspicious of everyone and wouldn’t allow anyone near her. She was even in a bad mood with the vet, who was doing his best to care for her.
Over the months, a lot of kind words from the patient, caring staff of Wildlife SOS have transformed Maya into a happy, trusting elephant.  While she’s not all that enthusiastic about her walks, she really loves playing football, which is her favorite game.  She loves fruit, and when her big sister, Bijli, isn’t looking, she helps herself to some of hers too. 
Bijli was rescued first, and a few months later was joined by Maya and their friend, Rajesh, so now the trio are all together again, along with two newer elephant friends, Bhola and Lakshmi.
Walking around on the soft grass under the trees is a whole lot better for Maya’s feet than standing on hard pavement, and the peace and quiet of the countryside a whole lot nicer than all the noise and glaring lights of the circus.
A handsome fellow, Rajesh is fondly called “the hunk” by the mahouts (elephant trainers or guardians). He didn’t have a good time at the circus either, and when he arrived at the Rescue Centre his legs were very weak and wobbly, caused by bad treatment.  He was angry too when he first came, and wouldn’t let anyone near him. 
Male elephants go through mating seasons called “musth,” when their mood is erratic and unpredictable, and they can be quite dangerous then.  Whenever this happens, his mahout, Sonu, makes sure Rajesh is kept cool and has plenty of water to drink, and that helps.
Rajesh is generally calm now and content. He can have a dip in the pool whenever he likes, or a chat with Maya over the fence. His legs are strong again, and he loves going on long walks, and, like Maya, enjoys eating lots of fruit.
His very favorite thing is to have a lovely bath, where he gets to relax while Sonu, and three others do all the work, scrubbing him from head to toe. Rajesh has a musical bent too, and an ear for music, which he loves listening to.

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