Elephants are some of the most awe-inspiring animals on the planet. Despite their enormous size, they move with incredible grace and ease, and a single look at their face reveals undeniable wisdom and poise. True to their appearance, elephants are highly emotional and intelligent animals and we’ve come to understand that they have some of the most complex familial and social groups in the animal kingdom. Elephants are very similar to humans in that way, however, unfortunately, many people do not know this. Instead of treating elephants with the due respect and care they deserve, we’ve resorted to locking them up in zoos or forcing them to perform in circuses – two things that are entirely unnatural for them.

Thankfully, as more people are waking up to the reality that life in captivity is no life at all for elephants, things are beginning to change. Ringling Brothers announced they’d be ending their elephant shows, and people across the world are standing up and refusing to attend zoos or other attractions that exploit animals. One organization, Wildlife SOS, has made it their mission to rescue India’s retired circus elephants and give them new, happy lives in their sanctuary. Most recently, they saved an elephant named Rhea who had lived in chains for 53 years.


According to Wildlife SOS, Rhea has experienced untold cruelty and abuse in her life. They believe she was likely poached as a calf and beaten to make her submissive to her keepers.

Amidst the daily horrors this elephant likely had to endure, she has the support of two other elephants, Mia and Sita. When Wildlife SOS learned about these three, they started paperwork to release them all, however, securing Rhea’s freedom was delayed in the process.

Without Mia and Sita, Rhea was left to languish alone for months. But now, Wildlife SOS has won her release and this sweet elephant is on her way to a new life, spent in the company of her best friends!


Life in the circus has left Rhea with a number of ailments, such as arthritis and cracked toenails. These conditions are very common amongst captive elephants who are forced to stand on hard surfaces, getting little movement or exercise. Wildlife SOS rescuers report that she walks with a limp, but once she receives proper treatment at their Elephant Conservation and Care Centre, Mathura, they will know more. She might have a long road to full recovery, but with the help of the sanctuary staff and her loving besties, we’re sure it will be an enjoyable one!

To learn more about Wildlife SOS and the amazing work they do, click here.


All image source: Wildlife SOS