U.S. Refuge Fights to Save Abused Elephant

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Dec 10 (Reuters) -
10 Dec 2003 22:36:46 GMT

What happens to aging circus elephants? Sadly, some wind up like Delhi, a 57-year-old native of India who may not live to see Christmas.

"We're fighting to save her," said Carol Buckley, director of The Elephant Sanctuary, a refuge near Nashville for old and sick elephants.

Delhi has irreversible foot rot and chemical burns from having formaldehyde poured on her wounds. She was seized last month from an Illinois business that rents animals to circuses. Federal authorities have charged the company with neglect.

Still, Delhi appears in good spirits, Buckley said, hobbling in the sunshine, playing with toys, and trumpeting at the sanctuary's dogs.

" She pours sand over her head. She bangs away joyously at a chain of rubber tires and barrels -- a fun thing she's never known," Buckley said.

"She is very playful and gentle but her physical condition doesn't look good at all. We're giving her antibiotics and pain killers but recovery is unrealistic because of the advanced condition of the disease ... It's obvious she very much wants to live and that helps."

Foot rot is the leading cause of death among captive elephants, Buckley said. It is caused by walking on concrete.

Delhi, who was captured as an infant and has spent a lifetime in circuses, will join the nine other elephants that wander the 2,700-acre (1,100 hectare) sanctuary after her quarantine ends.

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